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Scouting staffer safe after ‘rump-bumping’ over Allagash Falls, fired for safety violation

Darlene Kelly Dumond | BDN
Darlene Kelly Dumond | BDN
Volunteers and first responders help stabilize a staff member of a Boy Scout adventure camp who went over Allagash Falls on Wednesday, July 11, 2012, demonstrating a water activity in violation of established safety policies.
By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff

ALLAGASH, Maine — A staff member with the Boy Scouts of America’s Katahdin Area Council was in violation of established safety policies when he was injured going over Allagash Falls as part of a scouting activity earlier this week.

The staff member has since been fired and officials with the Maine Department of Conservation investigated the incident.

According to written comments emailed by Marshall Steinmann, executive director of the Katahdin Area Council, the unnamed staff member was part of a weeklong trek with the Maine High Adventure program down the Allagash River with a group of scouts.

On Wednesday, the group was preparing for an activity involving floating down the river with life jackets and helmets — a practice often called “rump-bumping.”

“However, the staff member chose to demonstrate the proper technique in an unsanctioned area near Allagash Falls instead of the sanctioned area below the falls,” Steinmann said in his email. “During the demonstration, the staff member was injured.”

A volunteer leader in the group, trained in wilderness first aid, responded and remained with the staff member as he was transported by canoe to the town of Allagash, about a mile below the falls.

Darlene Kelly Dumond was helping to close up the family’s Two River Diner on Wednesday afternoon when she heard commotion coming from the river.

“I was just helping close up the diner when I heard someone come screaming up over the riverbank,” Kelly Dumond said. “They had him in the canoe and wanted us to call 911.”

The staff member was taken by ambulance to Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent where he was treated and released.

Kelly Dumond said the man was very lucky.

“I’ve never heard of anyone doing this before,” she said.

“Fortunately he did not sustain major injuries and no scouts were involved in this incident,” Steinmann said. “However the staff member’s employment was terminated due to a violation of our safety policy.”

The state Department of Conservation investigation, according to Jeanne Curran, department spokesperson, determined that the incident was an accident involving “self rescue” and no further action will be taken.

Curran did add that the drop at Allagash Falls is around 40 feet where the water is currently running at 1,000-cubic-feet per second.

“That is relatively high and fast,” she said. “As much as we want people to enjoy our wilderness, they need to remember accidents can happen on the waterway and to always be as safe as possible.”

Safety is a number one concern with the Boy Scouts, Steinmann said.

“The health and safety of our youth and adult members is of paramount importance to the Boy Scouts of America,” he said. “Scouting provides its members and volunteers with extensive guidelines and policies as well as training opportunities for the safety of its members in scouting activities and programs.”

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