Lightning struck a group of boy scouts taking shelter from a storm in the US, killing the troop leader and leaving a 13-year-old boy clinically dead, in the latest tragedy to hit the organisation this week.
Assistant scoutmaster Steve McCullagh, 29, was killed instantly and six others injured when the bolt struck.
The lightning made a direct strike on a tarpaulin the Scouts had set up in a meadow in Sequoia National Park, California, on Thursday.
It came just days after four Scout leaders were electrocuted while putting up a tent at the National Scout Jamboree in Virginia. Dozens of scouts were made ill by the stifling heat two days later at the jamboree.
Ryan Collins, 13, was being kept on a ventilator at the University Medical Centre in Fresno so that his organs could be donated, the boy’s grandfather, Bill Collins, said yesterday.
“He didn’t even make it off the mountain,” said Sue Collins, the boy’s mother, crying along with her husband and younger son at the hospital. “It’s horrible. It’s a fluke.”
At least one of the injured in the lightning strike was kept alive only because the troop managed to administer heart massage for an hour, park ranger Alex Picavet said.
“That’s amazing,” Picavet said. “It’s very difficult. It’s probably because of their boy scout training.”
One troop member was being kept for observation at the Fresno hospital, and all the others were treated and released from another hospital, authorities said.
The scout group, which included five adults and seven teenage Scouts, had been camping for a week as part of a nine-day backcountry hike.
The lightning bolt hit one of two tarpaulins they had set up in a meadow. Two teenagers ran 25 minutes to a ranger station and five helicopters flew in to evacuate the group.
“They did the best they could in the situation they were in,” Picavet said. “They didn’t have metal poles, and stayed away from high points.”
Bill Collins said his grandson was a scout for more than three years and loved the outdoors.
“He was a fabulous boy. He was doing what he loved to do,” Collins said. “It’s just a tremendous shock to everybody.”