Heat Strikes Scouts Awaiting Bush

Army and emergency personnel load an unidentified person onto an Army medical evacuation helicopter, Wednesday, July 27, 2005 during the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Fort AP Hill in Bowling Green, Va.
AP
The Boy Scouts marched onto the field singing, plopping down in the grass to wait for President Bush. But hours later, the news that Bush couldn't make it was drowned out by sirens and shouts as hundreds fell ill because of the blistering heat.

About 300 people, most of them Scouts, suffered from dehydration, fatigue and lightheadedness Wednesday — just days after four Scout leaders were killed at the national Jamboree while pitching a tent beneath a power line.

Temperatures at Fort A.P. Hill, an Army base where the 10-day event is being held, reached the upper 90s and were intensified by high humidity.

"This is hot for me," said Chad McDowell, 16, who lives in Warrenton, Ore. "Where I'm from if it's 75, we think that it's a heat wave."

Half of the 300 who fell ill were treated and released from the fort's hospital. Dozens more were sent to surrounding hospitals, where they were in stable condition Wednesday night, Jamboree spokesman Gregg Shields said.

The more than 40,000 Scouts, volunteers, and leaders attending the event had been standing in the sun about three hours when word came that severe thunderstorms and high winds were forcing the president to postpone his appearance until Thursday. Mr. Bush's spokesman said Thursday that the visit would instead happen Sunday, at the Scouts' request.

The illnesses came as many were still reeling from the deaths of four Boy Scout leaders from Alaska.

On Thursday, CBS News Senior Producer Robert C. Dries, who was attending the jamboree, reported everything was back to normal.

"The weather is nice, a welcomed relief," said Dries. "The Scouts are continuing with their jamboree activities.

Repeated phone calls to the Jamboree press office were not returned.

"The Scouts want to be left alone from the curiosity seekers, they want their privacy to be respected," reported Dries. "Many of these Scouts, just little boys, have saved their money for months and years to be able to participate in this.

"It is a shame that this tragedy had to happen on the first day, but they want to be able to put the incident behind them. The leaders would have wanted them to move on."