Scout leaders in dock over Spanish boy's walk death in Portugal
Authorities say monitors unprepared for hot conditions on Portuguese hike31 March 2008
MADRID - The Portuguese authorities have accused five Spanish scout leaders of homicide by negligence over the death of Diego Amador, a 13-year-old Spaniard who died during an eight-kilometre hike in high temperatures while attending a summer camp near Lisbon in 2005.
Diego Amador was part of a group of 24 boys aged between 11 and 14 belonging to the Luján 102 Scout Unit, based in Madrid, who were attending a summer camp in Vila Nogueira de Azeitão, 35 kilometres outside the Portuguese capital in August of that year.
Among the activities planned was a three-day, 50-kilometre-hike, in nearby hills. The daytime temperature at the time averaged 38º Celsius.
According to the Portuguese investigation into his death, Diego had cut his foot two days before taking part in the hike, and had been given Paracetamol "for fever and pain." The report adds that, "due to the accident, physical effort was inadvisable."
But Diego took part in the first, eight-kilometre-stage of the hike. Soon after the group set off, it ran out of water, says the report.
Three hours into the trip, Diego began to complain of headaches. "He was trembling, and talking incoherently," the report continues, pointing out that the monitors had failed to reconnoitre the route, charging that Diego's group "got lost in the hills."
As Diego's condition worsened, one of the monitors tried unsuccessfully to call for help from a cellphone. The monitor then left the group and eventually managed to call the emergency services from a public phone. But Diego suffered a heart attack while being transferred by helicopter, and died in hospital that afternoon.
Another five or six of the group were reportedly "dehydrated and exhausted," the report adds. The authorities say that the four monitors leading the group, along with the camp's director, "did not take the measures required under the circumstances. The monitors subjected all the boys to intense physical effort."
The accused face prison terms of up to five years under Portuguese law.
The Spanish Scouts Federation (ASDE) last week said in a statement that the Luján 102 unit was staffed by "experts, with the appropriate training and qualifications." ASDE points to the child's post-mortem, carried out in Portugal, which concludes that the cause of death was "undetermined/unknown."
[Copyright El Pais/ Pilar Alvarez 2008]