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State: Observable Signs of Illness Ignored Shortly Before Teen's Death

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) -- State human services officials suspended the license of a wilderness-based program for at-risk children after the death of a 15-year-old boy during a routine outing.

Colorado Department of Human Services spokeswoman Liz McDonough told the Salt Lake City Tribune that Caleb Jensen was showing "observable signs of staphylococcus infection that were neglected."

Jensen died May 2 in a remote area outside of Montrose during a "routine outing" with Alternative Youth Adventures, program officials said. The boy had been ordered by the Utah Division of Juvenile Services to enroll in the two-month program, which aims to teach youths about the consequences of their actions by forcing them to rough it in the woods.

The company is licensed through the state as a child-care provider.

"We suspended their license (Wednesday)," said McDonough. "That obviously is very serious, and we took what we believe is appropriate action."

McDonough did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press after business hours.

A spokesman at the Roseland, N.J., headquarters for Alternative Youth Adventures told the Tribune that the program's staff had acted appropriately.

"We are at a loss to explain this at this point," said William Palatucci. "We are cooperating fully with the investigation. We know this is a good program. We've never had any fatalities."

Chief Deputy Coroner Rob Kurtzman said an autopsy determined the boy died after suffering a serious bacterial infection. He forwarded the results to the 7th Judicial District Attorney's Office for review.

Scott Wagner, chief investigator for the Montrose County District Attorney's Office, said a prosecutorial review is standard procedure and there had been no request for prosecution.

Utah Juvenile Justice Services spokeswoman Carol Sisco told the Tribune that Jensen passed a physical exam when he entered the program on March 28.

In 2001, Colorado corrections officials investigated an incident where campers cursed and threatened counselors with sticks and rocks, saying the Alternative Youth Adventures program was too difficult. Counselors called sheriff's officials for help.

The outcome of that investigation was not immediately clear Thursday.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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