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Families of 2 hit by lightning sue Boy Scouts of America

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PROVO — A wrongful death suit has been filed against the Boy Scouts of America and its National Parks Council by the families of two Utah Scouts struck by lightning a year ago.

One of the Scouts, 12-year-old David Rayborn of South Salt Lake, was killed in the July 13, 2011, accident at Scofield Reservoir. His best friend, Sean Smith, 12, was also struck by lightning and injured but survived.

The wrongful death suit is the second filed against the Boy Scouts of America in Utah since July.

The boys and their leaders sought shelter from a hailstorm "on top of a ridge," rather than inside the mess hall that was 100 feet away, the families contend.

The civil lawsuit was filed in 4th District Court in Provo by the families of the two boys struck by lightning. In the suit, the parents say the Scout leaders on that day failed to recognize the safety risks of taking the boys camping in an area where there had been a lot of thunderstorm activity and where they would potentially be exposed to lightning.

The camp health officer "knew, or should have known, that there was no safe place in the outdoors from lightning and that the only completely safe action for the Scouts and their leaders is to get inside a safe building or vehicle at the very first sign of thunder, lightning, or dark threatening clouds overhead," the lawsuit states.

Not all the leaders who were with the Scouts that day "were adequately trained to recognize and adequately respond to hazardous weather conditions," the lawsuit states. The boys and their leaders sought shelter from a hailstorm "on top of a ridge," rather than inside the mess hall that was 100 feet away, the families contend.

David and Sean were slower than the rest to climb to the top of the ridge because of Sean's asthma. David "didn't want to leave his friend," according to the lawsuit, and stayed with him. They were 30 feet from the campsite when David was struck directly in the chest by lightning. Sean was not directly struck but was knocked over by the blast.

Sean still suffers dizziness, memory loss, depression, fatigue, back pain and post-traumatic stress disorder due to the incident, according to court records.

The lawsuit contends the National Parks Council and the Boy Scouts had information that storms were in the forecast, that the area where the Scouts were camping had been hit by lightning for the past seven days prior to David and Sean's arrival, and that the camps on top of ridges were "defectively placed" in an area that tended to attract lightning.

The Boy Scouts of America requires Scout leaders of outdoor activities to receive online training about lightning safety.

David was one of two Boy Scouts who died in Utah on that day. In a separate incident, David Christopher Tuvell, 12, of Las Vegas, died while participating in a SCUBA event at the Bear Lake Aquatics Base in northern Utah.

Tuvell's family filed a wrongful death suit against the Boy Scouts in July, claiming inadequate training and defective equipment.

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Pat Reavy


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