Boy Scouts back home after Arkansas adventure
LAFAYETTE - Six Boy Scouts and their two leaders who were stranded by high water in Arkansas for two days are back home safe in Lafayette.
"Oh, man, I want to thank all the thousands of people who helped and prayed for the safety of these boys," said Chester Stutes, the grandfather of 14-year-old Caleb Stutes, one of the members of Troop 162 who were evacuated early Tuesday by an Arkansas National Guard helicopter.
Upon returning Tuesday to St. Edmond Catholic Church, well-wishers greeted troop leaders Jeff Robinson and Andy Trahan and Caleb Stutes and fellow Scouts Dylan Ducote, 13; Ian Fuselier, 13; Jamarcus Labostrie, 15; Blake Dugas, 13; and Stephen Miller, 13, with hugs, cheers and applause.
Bernadine Guidry, grandmother to Blake Dugas, called it a "nerve-wracking" experience. "I was confident they were safe," she said. "I just wanted to see him, touch him."
Dugas was more nonchalant.
"It was actually kind of fun," he said.
Fuselier said the only real problem was a lack of communication and many of the Scouts slept to pass the time.
"We knew everyone would be worried," he said.
Parents drove to the park near Lodi, Ark., Sunday night after the group did not return that evening.
"It's been very scary," Fuselier's mother, Wendy, said. "My mind knew they would be OK, but it was very hard to convince my heart."
The group viewed the extended stay as simply "another couple of days of camping," Robinson said.
National Guard pilots spotted the stranded troop's campfire at 2:20 a.m. Tuesday during a search operation that had been delayed and hampered by bad weather. When the helicopter was unable to safely land, the rescuers dropped down a duffel bag filled with food, supplies and walkie-talkies and returned at sunrise for the pickup, Robinson said.
The troop was prepared and did not have to use the supplies, Robinson said. The boys were dry, safe and well fed, as they ate warm meals every day, from grits and eggs to jambalaya and gumbo, he said.
"From our perspective, our biggest concern was you," Robinson said referring to family and friends. He added that he was surprised by the amount of coverage the group received.