4 dead, 48 injured as tornado hits Boy Scout camp in Iowa
Associated Press Writer
BLENCOE, Iowa ” Frightened Boy Scouts huddled in a shelter as a tornado tore through their western Iowa campground, killing four teens and injuring 48 others who had little warning of the approaching twister.
Tornadoes also raked Kansas on Wednesday, killing at least two people, destroying much of the small town of Chapman and causing extensive damage on the Kansas State University campus.
Iowa rescue workers cut through downed branches and dug through debris amid rain and lightning Wednesday night to reach the camp where the 93 boys, ages 13 to 18, and 25 staff members were attending a weeklong leadership training camp.
The tornado killed three 13-year-olds and one 14-year-old, said Lloyd Roitstein, an executive with the Mid America Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He did not release the names of the victims.
Roitstein said a tornado siren went off at the camp, but the scouts had already taken cover before the siren sounded.
The boys had been in two groups when the storm hit the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in the remote Loess Hills. One group managed to take shelter, while the other was out hiking.
At least 42 of the injured remained hospitalized Thursday morning, with everything from cuts and bruises to major head trauma, said Gene Meyer, Iowa’s public safety commissioner. At least four of the injured were airlifted from the camp, he said, refusing to elaborate on their conditions or identify the dead.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families of the victims,” Gov. Chet Culver said. “We continue to do everything we can to make sure those injured are going to recover.”
All the scouts and staff were accounted for, Meyer said, adding that searchers were making another pass through the grounds to make sure no one else was injured. The camp was destroyed.
Thomas White, a scout supervisor, said he dug through the wreckage of a collapsed fireplace to reach victims in a building where many scouts were seeking shelter when the twister struck at 6:35 p.m.
“A bunch of us got together and started undoing the rubble from the fireplace and stuff and waiting for the first responders,” White told KMTV in Omaha, Neb. “They were under the tables and stuff and on their knees, but they had no chance.”
The nearest tornado siren, in nearby Blencoe, sounded only briefly after the storm cut power to the town, said Russ Lawrenson of the Mondamin Fire Department.
Taylor Willoughby, 13, said several scouts were getting ready to watch a movie when someone screamed that there was a tornado. Everyone hunkered down, he said, and windows shattered.
“It sounded like a jet that was flying by really close,” Taylor told NBC’s “Today” on Thursday. “I was hoping that we all made it out OK. I was afraid for my life.”
Ethan Hession, also 13, said he crawled under a table with his friend.
“I just remember looking over at my friend, and all of a sudden he just says to me, ‘Dear God, save us,”‘ he told “Today.”
“Then I just closed my eyes and all of a sudden it’s (the tornado) gone.”
Ethan said the scouts’ first-aid training immediately compelled them to act.
“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,” he said.