Fri, Jul 29, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Boy Scouts get sick while waiting for Bush


About 300 people, most of them Boy Scouts, were sickened by the heat while waiting for US President George W. Bush to arrive at a memorial service for four Scout leaders who were killed while pitching a tent beneath a power line.

The president's visit to the Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill was postponed because of severe thunderstorms and strong wind. Instead, Bush is scheduled to visit the gathering today.

But before the president's appearance was called off, many Scouts fell ill from temperatures that rose into the mid 30s Celsius, made worse by high humidity.

Half of those were treated at the base hospital, about 5km from the event arena, and released. Dozens more were sent to other hospitals, where they were in stable condition Wednesday night, said Gregg Shields, a Jamboree spokesman.

Soldiers carried Boy Scouts on stretchers to the base hospital, and others were airlifted from the event.

Jamboree officials called for emergency help from surrounding areas, and ambulances transported Scouts during the storm, which brought high winds and lightning.

Jamboree spokeswoman Renee Fairrer said she was not sure if any of the illnesses were serious.

"If there are any, I haven't heard about them yet," Fairrer said.

Hours earlier, Scouts began gathering for the event, passing through security screening to get a place in an open field facing the stage where the president planned to speak.

Scout leaders distributed water by the caseload, and the Scouts were told they could remove their uniform shirts if they had another shirt underneath.

"This is hot for me," said Chad McDowell, 16, who lives in Warrenton, Oregon. "Where I'm from if it's 75[?F, 24?C], we think that it's a heat wave."

Those who fell ill suffered from dehydration, lightheadedness and fatigue, among other symptoms.

The gathering has drawn more than 40,000 Scouting enthusiasts from around the world to the fort about an hour south of the nation's capital.

The memorial service had been planned to honor four Scout leaders from Anchorage, Alaska, who were electrocuted Monday while pitching a dining tent at the Jamboree.

On Wednesday, a spokesman said the group had ignored scouting teachings by putting the tent under a power line.

The Scout leaders also had taken the "somewhat unusual" step of hiring a contractor to help with the task, Scouts spokesman Gregg Shields said.

"Boy Scouts are taught not to put their tents under trees or under power lines. I don't know what happened in that case," Shields said.

Some Scouts witnessed the deaths of the leaders as the large pole at the center of a large, white dining tent came into contact with power lines. Screams rang out as the tent caught fire and the men burned.

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