Boy Scouts Brave Flood, Tornado, Lightning

Boy Scouts show they are prepared for floods, tornadoes, lightning.

ByABC News
August 18, 2008, 4:04 PM

Aug. 19, 2008 — -- Kyle Lai and his fellow Boy Scouts from New Jersey's Troop 21 turned down a rigorous "high-adventure" ranch in Philmont, N.M., for a tamer backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon.

Or so they thought.

The six boys -- ages 11 to 13 -- were airlifted with their three troop leaders on Sunday from a canyon gorge as heavy rains and flood waters caused a dam to break near their campsite.

"They're in good shape, considering it was an emergency and they had no time to come up with an alternate plan," said Kyle's mother, Bridget Lai of Maplewood, N.J., whose husband Michael was one of the troop leaders evacuated.

This is the second incident this summer involving Boy Scout troops and the rage of Mother Nature. In June, four teens were killed and 48 were injured when a tornado touched down at a leadership camp in Iowa.

But mothers like Lai -- who send off boys barely out of elementary school to Boy Scout camp -- are undaunted by these disasters and say outdoor exploration is an important rite of passage.

The Boy Scouts' motto is "Be Prepared," but sometimes the weather leaves no time for training. In July, a 13-year-old and an assistant scoutmaster were electrocuted after a metal tent pole touched a power line in California.

And lightning struck a mountain shelter at a camp in Utah this month, killing one youth and injuring three others.

"It literally gives me goose bumps on my legs," said national child safety expert Alison Rhodes of Wilton, Conn., who is the mother of a 10-year-old Scout.

"One of the things I appreciate about the Boy Scouts is that parents are involved," she told "And they give kids the freedom to understand their limitations."

Indeed, Eileen Muench's husband, Kevin, was one of the troop leaders with her sons Colin, 13, and Tommy, 11. He has been a wilderness camper since he was 17, going on winter treks, staying in a lean-to structure.

The Maplewood, N.J., family had recently climbed Mt. Rainier in preparation for the Boy Scout trip to the Grand Canyon. The troop itself had trained by taking hikes in full packs, learning what can go wrong in a river and other emergencies.

"They were prepared," Muench told "This wasn't a willy-nilly thing."

"I knew they were in good hands," she said, even though her heart was in her throat that night. "I am a proud mother of scouts."

Lai said an older team from the same troop had chosen to carry their own gear and hike at high altitudes in New Mexico. But Kyle, 13, and the younger boys opted for the Grand Canyon.

"They'll have a story to tell and be able to compare when they get back," she said.

But one New York mother of two expressed anxiety about allowing boys that young to camp in such a remote region.

"It sounds extreme to me," said the 39-year-old, who wanted to remain anonymous. "I would be concerned about going places only accessible by helicopter or anywhere I couldn't reach him quickly."

Her son had attended sleep-away academic camps just a few hours away in Washington, D.C., and in Massachusetts, but a trip west was out of the question.

"Kids that age don't have the judgment or the wisdom," she said. "They are in a transitioning phase when they are still not adults. I don't think I would have sent my kids, especially when you are talking about the forces of nature."