- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

The fatal shocking of four Boy Scout leaders at the National Scout Jamboree in Virginia last summer has been ruled accidental, authorities said yesterday.

“We were unable to find culpability for criminal acts,” said Chris Grey, spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command at Fort Belvoir.

Ronald H. Bitzer, 58; Mike Lacroix, 42; and Michael J. Shibe, 49, all of Anchorage, Alaska; and Scott Edward Powell, 57, of Perrysville, Ohio, were killed at Fort A.P. Hill in Caroline County on July 25, the first day of the event.

The men were helping two workers pitch a dining tent when a metal pole touched an overhead power line.

The two workers, employed by Fishersville, Va.-based Tents & Events, were also injured. The company, a division of RentQuick.com, closed soon after.

Brett Hayes, chief executive officer for RentQuick.com, deferred inquiries yesterday to attorney Michael Harman, who declined to comment on the Army’s report until viewing it.

“It was a tragic accident, and our sympathies, thoughts and condolences continue to go out to the families of those who were lost,” Mr. Harman said.

Mr. Grey would not elaborate about the investigation or why it was so lengthy, because the matter had not been officially closed.

“The investigation is technically still open, but we are very confident that it’ll be closed within the next week,” he said. “Should any other [evidence] be presented, that could change, but we don’t foresee that happening.”

Gregg Shields, national spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, said the organization has requested a copy of the Army’s findings to improve safety at future Scout functions.

“It is our objective to make all scouting events as safe as possible,” he said. “We will analyze the information from the Army to put new safety procedures and policies in place.”

Family members of the victims said yesterday they were unaware of the Army’s ruling and declined to comment.

“We continue to extend our sympathies to the families of the victims, [especially] at this time of year, with it being their first holiday” since the accident, Mr. Shields said.

The Boy Scouts of America has held the event every four years since 1937. The next gathering is set for 2010 to coincide with the group’s 100th anniversary.

The event, which proceeded as planned following the accident, has been held on the 76,000-acre Army training base since 1981. About 30,000 to 40,000 people usually attend.

Jeongki Lim contributed to this article.



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