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Lightning killed a Boy Scout leader and a teenage Scout as their troop scr=
ambled for shelter during a storm in Sequoia National Park, authorities sa=
The lightning strike, which occurred late Thursday afternoon in the park's=
rugged backcountry, mortally injured 13-year-old Ryan Collins, who was ke=
pt on a ventilator for a time so that his organs could be donated, in comp=
liance with a wish he had expressed to his parents. Ryan died Friday night=
at University Medical Center in Fresno, a hospital spokeswoman said.
A second adult troop leader and five other teenage Scouts suffered injurie=
s, officials said.
Ryan was kept alive by fellow Scouts, who administered CPR to him and othe=
rs for an hour until helicopters arrived, according to relatives and a Nat=
ional Park Service spokesperson.
The incident left residents in the troop's Napa Valley hometown of St. Hel=
ena reeling, and it coincided with a time of grieving for many Scouts nati=
onally. On Monday, four adult Scout leaders from Alaska were electrocuted =
while setting up a tent at the National Scout Jamboree in Virginia.
"They're freak accidents," said Laura Bourret, 38, as she and her daughter=
laid flowers in front of the Napa Valley troop's clapboard headquarters F=
"They're both very traumatic and heartbreaking experiences=85. I hope this=
doesn't discourage youths from participating in Boy Scouts."
The St. Helena Scouts were hiking along the John Muir Trail, at more than =
10,000 feet, when they were caught in a sudden lightning storm, a common s=
ummer occurrence in the area, said Alexandra Picavet, a park spokeswoman.
The group of seven teens and five adults was more than halfway through a p=
lanned a nine-day hike across the Sierra Nevada range and were about four =
miles west of Mt. Whitney, their destination.
Lightning had been flashing for most of the day Thursday, but the weather =
grew intense about 4 p.m., as the group entered a meadow, Picavet said.
The Scouts separated into two groups and began erecting tarp shelters abou=
t 50 feet apart to wait out the storm. Not long after the campers huddled =
beneath their shelters, a bolt struck a tarp, instantly killing assistant =
Scout leader Steve McCullagh, 29.
Others were also injured, but none more critically than Ryan Collins.
As the Scouts and their leaders attended to the injured and gave several C=
PR, two boys grabbed maps and ran to the closest ranger station. They retu=
rned with a park ranger, who immediately radioed for rescue helicopters.
Four helicopters with paramedics responded and evacuated the campers in th=
e midst of the storm.
At University Medical Center, distraught relatives issued a statement prai=
sing the efforts of his fellow Scouts and the rescue workers who struggled=
to keep him alive.
"The heroic efforts undertaken by Ryan's fellow Scouts, Scout leaders, For=
est Service medical staff and other backpackers, who worked selflessly for=
hours in the midst of an ongoing lightning storm, was simply extraordinar=
y," the statement said.
David Heneghan, spokesman for the California Transplant Donor Network, sai=
d Ryan's organs would most likely be transplanted in the next few days. He=
neghan, who works as a liaison for donor families and recipients, said the=
young Scout was unique because he had already spoken with his family abou=
t wanting to be an organ donor.
"Because they had discussed this as a family, there was no confusion about=
what they should do," Heneghan said.
The family appeared to take some consolation that Ryan was doing what he e=
njoyed most when tragedy struck
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