Bolt struck tree about 25 ft. from huddled Boy Scouts

BELMONT — As of 5 p.m. yesterday two of the six Boys Scouts who were taken to Concord Hospital dealing with the after effects of a Monday evening lightning strike in Gilmanton remain hospitalized, said Daniel Webster Council Marketing Director Greg Osborn.
The remaining 17 boys scouts, who were taken to other hospitals including Lakes Region General Hospital, Franklin Regional Hospital, Speare Memorial Hospital, and Huggins Hospital have all been released he said.
Osborn said he understands the hospital personnel ran some metabolic tests on the boys and thought they should be further monitored overnight. He said all but one was scheduled to be discharged today.
He said the parents of all the boys were notified and most of them returned to Camp Bell on the Griswold Scout Reservation in Gilmanton yesterday. He said most of the boys are from Southern New Hampshire but a few were from Massachusetts and a few other states.
Twenty-three boy scouts who were participating in a leadership course at Camp Bell were taking shelter under a tarp during a quick-moving thunderstorm that rumbled through the area around 7 p.m. A lightening strike on a nearby pine tree knocked a few of the boys off their feet and most, including three counselors, were burned to some extent by the strike. All 26 were seen by area hospitals.
The Associated Press reported a Boy Scout spokesman as saying that on Tuesday the only physical evidence of the scout's close call on the hill top was a visible scar running from the top of tree to the ground, caused when the sap and water inside it boiled and split the tree open. Scout leader Gerry Boyle was nearby when the bolt hit and he told AP the ground shook. "Another 25 feet (closer) and it would have been a whole different story," he said.
Boyle said that some scouts began to feel burning, tingling sensations about 20 minutes after the strike. Minutes later more scourts developed the same symptoms and sensations and by night's end all were affected. Spider-web like marks appeared on the arms and legs of some.
Osborn said the first priority in any Boy Scout emergency is making sure everyone was safe and then getting the appropriate medical treatment for those who are injured, after which notification to the appropriate parent is made.
He said as news of the incident got out, the Daniel Webster Council's Facebook page lit up, eventually getting over 3,000 hits Monday night alone.
After the strike, Belmont Fire Chief Dave Parenti said the scouts stayed sheltered for about 15 to 20 minutes while counselors identified the most seriously injured and prepared to get out of the woods. They were all taken by bus to Belmont Fire Station where they were evaluated and taken to various area hospitals.
"Their attitude was unbelievable," Parenti, himself a former scout leader who has camped at Camp Bell said referring to the scouts themselves. "Their behavior made our job 110 percent easier."
The actual triage operation at the Belmont Fire Station, which was chosen because it is staffed 24-7, is centrally located, and close to Camp Bell went "very very well," said Parenti.
He said that while the area fire departments haven't done a mass-casualty drill in a while, the way Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid is set up and the level of coordination enjoyed by local fire departments, meant all of the various emergency personnel who responded were familiar with each other.
"We do train together on all kinds of things," Parenti said, adding Belmont works so often with other communities that all of them speak the same terminology and know each other.
"That closeness pays off," Parenti said, who said he has been fire chief for three years and his team never ceases to amaze him. "I'm always impressed by their skills."
Parenti said the one area where he could have improved was media communications. He said was inundated by the media, as was to be expected, and should have asked for more help from his lieutenants and other fire chiefs who responded to help with incident coordination while he spoke with reporters.
Lakes Region General Hospital handled eight of the boys while Franklin Regional Hospital took six of them.
Disaster Preparedness Director John Prickett said hospitals in the central Granite State work together and individually preparing for high numbers of casualties from a single event.
He said LRGH trains to handle up to 75 patients but, in cases like the one in Gilmanton Monday night, would prefer to spread the injured out to other area hospitals. He said the most common drill is to practice for a school bus accident.
Prickett, who went to LRGH for Monday's incident, said once the notice came to them, the ER staff began emptying out the beds. He said there were six people who were ready to be admitted so staff brought them to rooms. Another six were discharged leaving 12 open beds in the emergency room for the scouts.
He said because of the prior planning and the warning given to them by the Boy Scouts it was "just another busy night" at the LRGH emergency room. He said the Belmont Fire Department did an excellent job of determining who needed emergency care the most and getting them to area emergency rooms.
Prickett said there is always room for improvement and said communications with parents was one thing he felt needed work. He said the issue was there were around 200 scouts at Camp Bell and the Hidden Valley Scout Camp and, as news of the strike made the airwaves, parents were calling the hospital to see if their sons were involved.
"Our after action area of improvement will be patient tracking," he said.
He echoed Parenti in complimenting the individual boy scouts on their calmness and professionalism. "My son is an Eagle Scout and scouting teaches leadership," he said.
Both the Belmont Fire Department and LRGH Preparedness staff will be conducting after-incident assessments.
(Associated Press contributed to this story.)