6 La. Scouts rescued from Ark. wilderness area
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
LANGLEY, Ark. (AP) — In the same remote valley where 20 people died in a flash flood last summer, six Louisiana Boy Scouts trapped by a rising river built a campfire and ate jambalaya and grits, confident rescuers would eventually arrive.
The boys’ two adult leaders had them set up camp near a mountain they could climb if their trail flooded — one of a series of decisions that allowed the group to emerge unharmed from the Albert Pike Recreation Area in southwest Arkansas. Rescuers also praised them for good planning, leaving a map of their planned trek and avoiding the valley floor when they realized how deep and fast the river had grown.
“They did exactly what they needed to do,” Montgomery County Sheriff David White said. “As long as they stayed on high ground, we figured they were going to be in good shape.”
While the weekend’s conditions weren’t as bad as the deadly flood that struck last year while people were sleeping, they were dangerous. The boys crossed the Little Missouri River at the start of their trip Thursday but by the time they went to leave Sunday morning, it had grown to 70 yards wide and up to 5 feet deep. Scoutmaster Jeff Robinson tested it and ordered the troop to retreat.
“I realized the water was too strong to cross the river with the boys,” Robinson said. A National Guard helicopter eventually plucked the group to safety after sunrise Tuesday.
The boys said they passed the time in between talking and sleeping in. With no cell phone service available, several said their biggest concern was what their parents were thinking.
“I was worried that my parents would freak out,” said Ian Fuselier, 13.
After eating jambalaya, eggs and grits Sunday, the boys had only one meal of jambalaya Monday. But Robinson said they had enough food to last several days, a water filter and a dry camp.
“If we had to stay three, four, five days, we had the resources to do so,” he said.
Troop 162 was reported missing when it didn’t return home Monday as planned, and anxious parents and relatives drove up from Lafayette, La. Search teams on the ground couldn’t find the boys, and rain and fog prevented a helicopter from doing a flyover.
The Scouts themselves said there was no reason to worry.
The troop had filed a detailed schedule and map for its hike with a Scout leader who didn’t make the trip, and they knew to avoid low areas during rain, said Art Hawkins, executive director of the Boy Scouts’ Evangeline Area Council in Lafayette.
The Scouts were found early Tuesday when the weather improved enough for a National Guard helicopter to make it into the park and spot their campfire. Just after 2 a.m., Guardsmen tossed the troop a bag with supplies: ponchos, food, water and blankets.
After daybreak, a helicopter landed in a clearing about 300 yards from their camp. The pilot ferried the eight out in two trips, delivering them near a camp supply store where their families applauded their arrival.
Parents who had appeared anxious hours earlier said they had full faith in Robinson and assistant scoutmaster Andy Trahan.