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Scout Troop Hit by Lightning, Two Killed


July 29, 2005

FRESNO, Calif. - Lightning struck a group of Boy Scouts taking shelter from a summer storm in Sequoia National Park, killing the troop leader and a 13-year-old scout, according to a ranger and the boy's parents.

Troop leader, Steve McCullough, 29, was pronounced dead Thursday night, according to the Tulare County coroner's office.

Boyscout, Ryan Collins, 13, died Friday morning, according to his parents, Sue and Peter Collins. "We just lost our son," said Sue Collins after rushing to the hospital in Fresno to be with her critically injured son.

The deaths come just days after four men were electrocuted while putting up a tent at the National Scout Jamboree in Virginia.

The lightning strike happened at 4 p.m. along John Muir Trail near Sandy Meadow, said park ranger, Alexandra Picavet. The group was located at an altitude of 10,700 feet, about four miles west of Mount Whitney.

The Boy Scout group from St. Helena, was in a meadow surrounded by trees when the lightning storm became heavy. They split into two groups and set up two tarps more than 50 feet apart to seek protection from the storm, Picavet said. Then, a lightning strike made a direct hit on one of the tarps.

The group of seven juveniles and five adults was on the seventh day of a nine-day camping trip. There had been lightning storms on and off most of the day, Picavet said.

After the lightning bolt hit the tarp, Two of the scouts made a 25-minute run to the nearest ranger station and hurried back with the on-duty ranger, Picavet said.

When they returned, people were performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the injured. The Park Service's emergency personnel were called, and it took five helicopters to recover and evacuate the group.

Two of the injured remained hospitalized in Fresno, and others were being treated in Visalia after being evacuated from the park. Some of the injuries were described as serious.

The two lightning strike victims were the seventh and eighth fatalities in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks this year. A spokesman says its been several years since someone has been killed by lightning in the park.

Park Rangers caution that afternoon storms are common in the High Sierra during the mid-summer, and they suggest if you are caught in one to come down from peaks, bluffs or cliffs, and to also stay away from granite.

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