Jamboree tragedy: Leaders die in accident

Tent pole touches power line; LDS Scouter among 4 killed

Alaskan Church members and Scouters nationwide are grieving the loss of an LDS Scoutmaster who was killed along with three fellow leaders in an electrical accident July 24 at the National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.

Michael LaCroix, 42, of the O'Malley Ward, Anchorage Alaska Stake, was electrocuted when a tent pole he and others were using to put up a tent apparently hit a power line. The accident was witnessed by several Alaskan Scouts.

Also killed were Michael Shibe, 49; Ronald Bitzer, 58; and Scott E. Powell, 57.

Larry Call, the first counselor in the O'Malley Ward bishopric, was also helping with the tent and suffered electrical burns on his hands, hip and feet, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Brother Call spent the evening of the accident in a nearby hospital before being released the next day. Two contract workers at the Jamboree also reportedly suffered non-life-threatening injuries. None of the Scouts attached to the Alaskan delegation — including several Church members — were harmed.

The tragedy occurred on the opening day of the national Jamboree and prompted news headlines across the nation. The loss of the four Scout leaders was felt especially deeply throughout the Anchorage and Scouting communities.

"This is a pretty small community, everybody knows all of the LDS Scoutmasters," said Anchorage Alaska Stake President Melvin Nichols.

Scouting's Chief Executive, Roy Williams, added "Our prayers and sympathies are with the families of each of the victims. It is a tragic loss that is shared by everyone in the Boy Scouts of America."

A team of counselors and LDS chaplains was enlisted to offer comfort and support to the Alaskan Scouts. A contingent of priesthood leaders — including Young Men General President Charles W. Dahlquist — were already in attendance at the Jamboree to be with the boys, serving as mentors and chaplains.

"Several Church members at the Jamboree have been tremendously helpful in the whole process" following the accident, President Nichols said.

Las Vegas Nevada Highland Hills Stake President Todd Moody was serving as a chaplain during the Jamboree. President Moody accompanied Brother LaCroix's Scout son, Cullen, 14, and Mr. Shibe's two Scout sons on their flight home to Alaska.

Meanwhile, Alaskan LDS Scout leader Wayne Watson was leading another group of Scouts when the accident occurred. He played a pivotal role assisting the Scouts attached to Brother LaCroix's troop, inviting the boys to join his troop and continue with their Jamboree experience.

After being released from the hospital, Brother Call, a dentist from Anchorage, opted to remain at the encampment as long as his health permitted.

"(Brother Call) knows the value of this camp and didn't want to leave," said O'Malley Ward Bishop Bradley Green.

Church leaders in Anchorage call Brother LaCroix and Brother Call the sort of men who love youth and can be counted on to serve.

A Church convert and former bishopric member, Brother LaCroix was a partner in a vending machine operation. He was released as the ward's high priests group leader several months ago so he could be a Scoutmaster. "He really wanted to serve these boys," Bishop Green said.

Brother LaCroix's commitment to youth was well known in Anchorage, where he was active in the Boys and Girls Club. He is survived by his wife, Carol, and their four children: Clayton, 16; Cullen, 14; Chantry, 10; and Seneca, 7.

Meanwhile, extreme weather conditions at the Jamboree caused many campers to fall ill and prompted the postponement of an expected July 27 visit by President George W. Bush. The Associated Press reported that some 300 people — most of them Scouts — suffered from dehydration, fatigue and light-headedness. Temperatures at the Fort A.P. Hill Army base reached the upper 90s. High humidity intensified the heat.

At press time, all but three victims of heat-related illnesses had been treated and released from area hospitals or at the camp's on-post medical clinic, the AP and Jamboree's web site reported. The three others remained hospitalized in stable condition. President Bush's scheduled July 27 visit was reportedly scratched because of severe thunderstorms and high winds.

On July 31, President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, is scheduled to preside over a Jamboree sacrament meeting for LDS Scouts and leaders.

Funeral services for Brother LaCroix will take place Aug. 4 in Anchorage.

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