BLENCOE, Iowa – When the howling winds finally died down, the Boy Scouts – true to their motto, “Be Prepared” – sprang into action.
Putting their first-aid training to use, they applied tourniquets and gauze to the injured. Some began digging victims from the rubble of a collapsed chimney. And others broke into an equipment shed, seized chain saws and other tools, and started clearing fallen trees from a road.
Dozens of the Scouts, ages 13 to 18, were hailed for their bravery and resourcefulness Thursday, the morning after a twister flattened their camp in Iowa and killed four boys.
“There were some real heroes at this Scout camp,” Gov. Chet Culver said, adding that he believes the Scouts saved lives while they waited for paramedics to cut through the trees and reach the camp a mile into the woods.
The 93 boys, all elite Scouts attending a weeklong leadership training session, had taken part in a mock emergency drill with 25 staff members just a day before the twister hit.
“They knew what to do, they knew where to go, and they prepared well,” said Lloyd Roitstein, an executive with the Mid-America Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Killed were Aaron Eilerts, 14, of Eagle Grove, Iowa, and Josh Fennen, 13, Sam Thomsen, 13, and Ben Petrzilka, 14, all of Omaha, Neb. Roitstein said all four had taken shelter in a building that was leveled, and all of them were found near its collapsed stone chimney. The governor said the cause of death had not been determined.
At least a dozen people remained hospitalized Thursday with everything from bruises to spine and head injuries.
About 100 people, many clutching candles, gathered for a flag ceremony and vigil at a World War II monument in Omaha’s Memorial Park on Thursday night.
Ethan Hession, 13, said the Scouts’ first-aid training immediately compelled them to act.
“We were prepared,” he said. “We knew that we need to place tourniquets on wounds that were bleeding too much. We knew we need to apply pressure and gauze. We had first-aid kits, we had everything. We knew about this, we knew how to do it.”