INSIDE EDITION Investigates Boy Scout's Death
INSIDE EDITION's Chief Investigative Correspondent, Lisa Guerrero, retraced the steps of a devoted Boy Scout whose whose tragic death has ignited the question: Is the historic organization living up to it's motto Be Prepared when protecting its young members?
Guerrero hiked through the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida in sweltering heat, much like the conditions faced by 17-year old Michael Sclawy-Adelman in May 2009.
Sclawly-Adelman was on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout and just needed to complete a 20-mile hike. So the Florida teen joined his troop leaders on a day hike through Big Cypress. The rugged trail is considered challenging, even for experienced hikers. The temperature on the day of Sclawy-Adelman's hike would soar to 100 degrees.
Official park records provide a chilling account of the teen's last hours.
About 10 miles into the hike, the group stopped for lunch. At this point the sun would have been beating down and although they were able to drink, they said it was just too hot to eat, yet the group pressed on.
A couple of hours later, at the 15 mile mark, Sclawy-Adelman began to stumble. He fell and lost consciousness and at about 6pm that evening, the group called 911. By the time rescuers could reach them, Michael was dead.
Sclawy-Adelman's parents claim that the adult Boy Scout leaders were far from prepared for the intense heat or for the emergency that followed.
"Extremely disappointed in the people that we trusted, in an organization that we trusted," said Howard Adelman.
They're suing the Boy Scouts, claiming the adult leaders were not trained and ignored signs that their son was suffering from classic signs of heat exhaustion, including dizziness and disorientation.
Attorney Ira Leesfield told INSIDE EDITION, "Instead of preparation, we got panic. When the symptoms first appeared they should have been dealt with, not when it was critically too late."
There are 2.7 million Boy Scouts in America today. Going on nature hikes is one of the great Boy Scout traditions. But sometimes when those Boy Scouts show up, not everyone is happy to see them.
Andrea Lankford is a former National Park ranger and author of Ranger Confidential. INSIDE EDITION's Guerrero spoke with her in Yosemite National Park in California.
"If we saw a Boy Scout troop coming down the trail we would cringe. ‘Here comes trouble,' " said Lankford.
Lankford says she frequently had to rescue Boy Scout troops who were unprepared for the conditions. She showed INSIDE EDITION a spot where a 12-year old scout slipped to his death while on a hike three years ago.
So just how well-trained are the leaders who safeguard young Scouts? INSIDE EDITION found a 2009 video of a Boy Scout executive complaining about the lack of training among adult leaders.
"We have to do a better job than 36% who are trained today," he said on the video.
The Boy Scouts of America disputes that figure and declined our requests for an on-camera interview, but Guerrero caught up with the CEO of the Boy Scouts, Robert Mazzuca, at a recent event and asked him about allegations of untrained leaders.
"We work very hard at making sure leaders are very prepared," said Mazzuca. "We have an extensive training program and really one death is too many."
Responding to the death of 17-year old Michael Sclawy-Adelman, Muzzuca told Guererro, "My heart goes out to (his parents). I'm sorry for their loss. If there's a lesson to be learned, we want to learn that so it doesn't happen again."
The Boy Scouts of America and the adult leaders on that fateful hike have denied any responsibility in Sclawy-Adelman's death.