Three Boy Scouts dead after sailing tragedy

Two Eagle Scouts were dead, an 11-year-old Scout was clinging to life and a small East Texas town was in shock and mourning Monday after a Catamaran the boys were sailing apparently hit a power line.

A third Boy Scout died Monday in East Texas after a tragic accident in which the mast of a catamaran the boys were sailing apparently struck an overhead transmission power line, electrocuting them.

Thomas Larry, 11, died from injuries sustained in the accident at Lake O' the Pines on Saturday, confirmed Steve Lightfoot, spokesman with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

Two other Scouts, Will Brannon, 17, and Heath Faucheux, 16, died at the scene.

All three were prayed for by more than 300 people who turned out for a candlelight vigil Sunday in Hallsville, a town of about 3,500 people 140 miles east of Dallas. They paid homage to Brannon and Faucheux and prayed that Thomas would recover.

"It's been a real shock to the community," Mayor Steve Eitelman told USA TODAY. "Kids, scouting, service to God and our country, that is what we are all about here."

Residents set up meal trains and a GoFundMe page for the families. Eitelman, who has lived in Hallsville for 35 years, said the entire town is involved.

"Their tragedy is our tragedy," Eitelman said. "We try to help. But I know I am powerless. The truth is it's in God's hands."

Lindsey Farnham's daughter marched in the Hallsville High School band with the victims. Farnham knew Will, knows his parents well.

"We've got meal trains set up, and we are coordinating with others to help with lawn maintenance, cleaning, anything the families might need," she said. "It's very humbling to see what people are will to do for each other here."

Preliminary investigations indicated the Scouts were electrocuted when their Hobiecat Catamaran collided with an overhead transmission line Saturday in Lake O' The Pines near Avinger, Texas Parks and Wildlife said in a statement. 

Game wardens arrived at the scene to find the catamaran on fire with the sails up about 300 yards north of the power lines, the statement said.

"Absolute chaos," Capt. Quint Balkcom of Texas Parks and Wildlife told KLTV in Tyler, Texas. "This is a terrible event, it absolutely is."

Wardens discovered the older teen onboard and another in the water a short distance away. Both victims "suffered severe bodily injuries" and were dead at the scene, the statement said.

Thomas was found unresponsive in a boat nearby, with good Samaritans administering CPR. He was airlifted about 70 miles to LSU Medical Center-Shreveport in Louisiana.

Kelly Camp Weatherford, a friend of the Larry family, set up the GoFundMe page to help cover expenses for Thomas. It reached its $10,000 goal in 20 hours.

"Thomas is at LSU in Shreveport on life support," she wrote on the page. "They did a partial test for brain functions but they were negative. ... They are not very optimistic but there is a chance."

All three boys were wearing personal flotation devices at the time of the accident, the agency said.

Balkcom said the boat was impounded so investigators can get "a full picture of what happened in this horrendous event." Rob Walker, general manager of Upshur Rural Electric Cooperative, said the company was cooperating with the investigation.

"Our heartfelt prayers go out for all of the Scouts, their families, and for the community," Walker said in a statement. "We are working to determine what happened, and we are gathering facts as they become available." 

Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted: "A terrible tragedy. Our thoughts & prayers go out to the Boy Scouts & their families."

Dewayne Stephens, CEO of the Scouts' East Texas Area Council, issued a statement thanking emergency teams for their response.

"This is an extremely difficult time for our Scouting family," Stephens said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families. We will support them in any way that we can."

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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