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The DAILY DIRT - The nitty and the gritty of outdoor news

Eagle Scout Fined $25K For Rescue

An Eagle Scout injured on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire has one month to pay for his rescue

We've reported before on New Hampshire's policy of charging for search-rescue-operations born out of negligence, and survival expert Steve Howe at The Pulse covered the story of injured Eagle Scout Scott Mason's rescue from Mount Washington in difficult spring-snow conditions.

Now, those two stories are converging: Mason has one month to pay the full cost of his $25,000 rescue, after being deemed 'negligent.' Despite surviving for three days in tough conditions with a busted ankle, The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department ruled that ultimately, he ventured into the wild unprepared for his ambitious itinerary. 25 people and a helicopter searched for two full days before Mason was found.
Maj. Tim Acerno, who oversees law enforcement for Fish and Game in the Granite State and headed Mason’s rescue in April, said Mason “was negligent” in attempting to hike an “aggressive” trail in wintry conditions, and then taking a “difficult route even after spraining his ankle.”
Local reaction ranges from justification to outrage, given that the scout used hand sanitizer to build a fire, found his own shelter, and survived for three days in the wilderness. Howe praised Mason for his resourcefulness in nearly rescuing himself, but cautioned that while "knowing wilderness and survival skills is important, (...) knowing how to recognize and avoid problems in the first place is much more important." Mason took a crampon and ice axe with him but had never used them before, and he underestimated conditions.

Back in the day, Steve Howe dropped advice on rescue insurance, which can defray the cost of rescue. But what do you think? Should Mason be liable for his own rescue?

—Ted Alvarez

Negligent hiker gets $25K bill (Boston Herald)

via The Goat

READERS COMMENTS

assistant scoutmaster mike
Aug 15, 2009

If you are in eagle scout scottmason camp, please look atdon malbrough,assistant scoutmaster inMD. posting in facebook:rescue scott mason AGAIN. SCott needs this support wtth GOD help,the hiking communitys help and scouting across this cuntry.please donate to scotts defense fund:SCOTT MASON CONTRIBUTION FUND MUTUAL BANK336 PLYMOUTHST HALIFAX,MA USA 02338 .

assistant scoutmaster mike
Aug 15, 2009

If you are in eagle scout scottmason camp, please look atdon malbrough,assistant scoutmaster inMD. posting in facebook:rescue scott mason AGAIN. SCott needs this support wtth GOD help,the hiking communitys help and scouting across this cuntry.please donate to scotts defense fund:SCOTT MASON CONTRIBUTION FUND MUTUAL BANK336 PLYMOUTHST HALIFAX,MA USA 02338 .

JBS156
Jul 22, 2009

If, as some have said, the kid was fine. Hydrated, fed, knew where he was at, and doing just dandy then NHFG should have just left him alone. After all if he got up Mount Washington, sprained ankle and all, he can get can get back down. Right?
I guess someone jumped the gun when this guy was reported missing. Obviously, he was doing just fine and NHFG wasted their time and taxpayer's money "helping" him down. Maybe NHFG should go after the individual(s) who filed the erroneous, time-consuming, resource consuming, 'crying wolf' false report that he was missing. After all if no report had been filed, this whole situation would have been avoided.


Joe Ranger
Jul 22, 2009

I've lead 147 S&R in wilderness areas. If a subject's activity was consistant with the management objective and protocals of the recreational resource, yet subject to unfortunate circumstance - no penalty. If on the other hand, a subject was involved in activity inconsistant with the management objectives of the resource - by all means, fine! Not to suggest neglegance in this particular S&R, but neglegance in the mgt of the S&R can influence cost too.

Joe
Jul 21, 2009

NH authorities are picking on the wrong person to use as a test case. The kid was a bit overambitious given his unfamiliarity with 'winter' travel and the slushy, warm temperatures but, really, all the finger-wagging from fat Fish & Game rangers who rarely leave their state truck gets pretty old. Hell, they'll waste that much money getting a whitetail deer out of a frozen pond.

And a month to come up with the money? That's just plain greedy and stupid.

One reason so many rescues "cost" so much is because authorities immediately reach for a helicopter - and often overestimate the expense of everything else involved.

Perhaps Major Tim Acerno should be charged for overreacting to a lost kid who had adequate equipment and was just overdue. After all, they "found" him only 45 minutes from the summit of Mt. Washington, moving under his own power, so they did virtually nothing to actually 'rescue' Mason...other than burning a lot of aviation gas and sending him a bill for it.

Scruff
Jul 21, 2009

Absolutely...
As a NH resident and avid backpacker, The Whites are not a place to take lightly. Overconfidence was a major factor here and taking along ice gear that he had never used was reckless and it places the lives of all of the rescuers needlessly in danger.

If he planned a more realistic trip, had covered similar terrain before and was competent with the technical skills and equipment to complete the trek but was injured I would feel completely different.

Take small steps, learn correctly and please don't risk the lives of others needlessly.

LK
Jul 21, 2009

He busted his ankle - that could happen to anybody, I don't see how an accident like that is negligence. Maybe a little more clarification on how the ankle got busted? This could happen to even the experts. Besides, even if it was ambitious it doesn't mean he was overly proud or negligent or risking the lives of others. Life happens, that's why search and rescue even exists. I think that you could twist it anyway you want to make it seem negligent. Might as well charge everyone instead of trying to make regular outdoor-enjoying folks feel like they were "negligent" and did something wrong when things just don't go as planned.

Jacob
Jul 20, 2009

Talk about proper trip planning, it sounds like this kid's biggest mistake was in not researching NH state law prior to a hike. Even people convicted of crimes can pay down their debt through means of community service, which unfortunately is where this is going to end up.

Seems like the NH legislature should have foreseen this and given people alternatives to paying a fine that doesn't include a conviction.

SM214
Jul 20, 2009

I am Scoutmaster for my local Boy Scout troop, and am outraged, When these young men earn the rank of Eagle, they have proven themselves as competent in all manner of skills. They know as much if not more than 90% of Backpacker readers, and they are under 18yrs of age. NH fish and game ought to come to Lake Erie in winter when the Coast Guard has to pull a bunch of fisherman off the ice cause they were too stupid to stay off it. (see this last winter as a case in point) I could go on, but I won't...The Maj should spend a week in the wilderness with this Eagle scout, my woney will be on he Scout walking out hydrated, nourished, and in great physical shape.

HikerMom
Jul 20, 2009

Absolutely not. I know Scott personally. He was extremely prepared. He spoke with 2 AMC officers about his route and bailout plans the day before. The weather stayed as forcast. Unseasonably warm. He followed the itinery he had left the AMC front desk and his parents. If he had been told that the shortcut, the pre-planned "bailout" route would lead him directly into impassable extremely dangerous flood conditions, he would have never gone into the Great Gulf and gotten trapped. He was NEVER lost. Just trying to slowly get himself back out.

HikerMom
Jul 20, 2009

Absolutely not. I know Scott personally. He was extremely prepared. He spoke with 2 AMC officers about his route and bailout plans the day before. The weather stayed as forcast. Unseasonably warm. He followed the itinery he had left the AMC front desk and his parents. If he had been told that the shortcut, the pre-planned "bailout" route would lead him directly into impassable extremely dangerous flood conditions, he would have never gone into the Great Gulf and gotten trapped. He was NEVER lost. Just trying to slowly get himself back out.

Tom
Jul 20, 2009

I constantly hear this hike Scott was planning to complete as being unrealistic. Many, myself included, have completed the entire range in a single day. This is difficult, but certainly possible. Scott was only attempting to complete the northern presidentials.

Just my two cents.

Scruff
Jul 20, 2009

Absolutely...
As a NH resident and avid backpacker, The Whites are not a place to take lightly. Overconfidence was a major factor here and taking along ice gear that he had never used was reckless and it places the lives of all of the rescuers needlessly in danger.

If he planned a more realistic trip, had covered similar terrain before and was competent with the technical skills and equipment to complete the trek but was injured I would feel completely different.

Take small steps, learn correctly and please don't risk the lives of others needlessly.

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