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Electrical Accident Kills 4 in Virginia

Fort A.P. Hill, VA – Four volunteer Boy Scout leaders from Alaska were accidentally electrocuted yesterday afternoon as they set up camp on the first day of the  scouts’ national jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., the organization said.

The four victims, all adult men, were killed between 4:30 and 5 p.m. at their camp at the military base, Gregg Shields, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts said.

Two other scout leaders and a contract worker were injured and were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, Mr. Shields said. Their conditions were not released by the authorities last night.

Neither Mr. Shields nor Brian Wolfe, a spokesman for Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, the electric company that provides powers for the base, offered any details of how the accident happened.

Bill Haines, the executive of the Western Alaska Council of the Boy Scouts, which covers about 80 percent of the state’s scouts, said  the men had been among eight leaders selected from a field of 20 to accompany about 80 scouts from Troop 711, in the Anchorage area.

“These are just the cream of the crop,” Mr. Haines said from his home in Eagle River, Alaska. “These people sacrifice time and energy because they care about kids. You couldn’t ask for a better group of people. It’s just a tragic loss.”

Two of the men had accompanied their sons on the trip, Mr. Haines said. One man who died had two sons at the jamboree, a quadrennial event. The other two men were lifetime scouters, he said, whose sons had been in the organization when they were younger.

Mr. Haines said that none of the names of the dead would be released until all the families were notified.

“The son of one man works here in town and I had to tell his son because his mother’s out of town,” Mr. Haines said. “That was very difficult. Any time you lose a father it’s very tough, and with scouting your family tends to be tighter to the father because you do a lot with him.”

The scouts arrived yesterday at Fort A.P. Hill, an active military base where temperatures reached about 100 degrees for the jamboree, a week of outdoor recreation including scuba diving, archery and all-terrain biking. Busloads of scouts and troop leaders scampered around from morning to evening yesterday, receiving their camp assignments, pitching tents and setting up eating areas.

The accident caused a power loss that left some areas of the camp without electricity for  30 minutes.

As counselors were brought in to speak with the campers, a spokeswoman for the Scouts, Renee Fairer, said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families.”

After news of the accident broke, families called the jamboree in a panic to make sure their children were unharmed, Ms. Fairer said. She said she was not aware of any parents’ withdrawing their sons from the jamboree.    President Bush was scheduled to address the scouts there tomorrow evening, Mr. Shields said.

Mr. Haines, who knew all four of the electrocuted men, said that as of last night, there were no plans to bring the Alaskan scouts home. The troop  was moved to another part of the base. The three sons of the dead men would return to Alaska, he said.

The troop left Anchorage last week and began a tour of the Washington area before going to Fort A.P. Hill, which lies about 90 minutes south of the capitol.

“It’s a good opportunity for the kids to get down to the lower 48,” Mr. Haines said.

To raise money to cover the $2,500 cost of the trip, the scouts sold popcorn, held car washes and did extra chores at their homes. The leaders each paid $1,250 out of their own pockets, Mr. Haines said.

One of the men killed had recently moved from Alaska to Ohio, and decided only last week, on a visit to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the Western Alaska Council, to attend the jamboree when space opened up.

“He had been in scouting for 25 years,” Mr. Haines said. “This was his first jamboree.”

Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia issued a statement  saying the accident would be investigated thoroughly.

In Alaska, over the sound of his doorbell chiming as he fielded calls about the accident, Mr. Haines said the jamboree would not be the same for his troops for some years.

“Everybody knows them,” he said of the dead men. “It’s going to be a huge loss for this council. They were some of the best leaders that we had.”

Story via NYtimes.com

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