Boy Scout dies after canoe capsizes

April 25, 1994|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Sun Staff Writer

A 14-year-old Boy Scout from the Parkville area of Baltimore County died yesterday after his canoe capsized on Deer Creek in Harford County, trapping him under water for more than five minutes.

Sgt. Tom French, of the Harford County Sheriff's Department, said Justin Sappington, the son of Jeffrey Sappington of the 8600 block of Ellen Court, was pronounced dead at Fallston General Hospital at 3:03 p.m., about three hours after the accident.

"They were still trying to work on him at the hospital, and from what I was told they did have some vital signs," Sergeant French said. "But he did die at the hospital."

Justin, a member of Boy Scout Troop 124, had joined six other Scouts and four adult troop leaders on a Sunday canoe outing on Deer Creek.

Sergeant French said the Scouts set out at 9 a.m. from Eden Mill Park. When the boats reached a spot at Clark's Bridge near the 3300 block of Grier Nursery Road just before noon, they found a log blocking their way.

"One group attempted to portage around the log, and another came down and struck the log with the canoe," Sergeant French said.

The second canoe capsized, throwing Justin and another boy into the water. The other scout was washed under the log and emerged on the other side.

Scout leader James Bowen told police that Justin at first appeared to be safe. Mr. Bowen said he then entered the water to help the second boy.

"But then . . . I turned to see how Justin was and noticed that Justin had been pulled under the water, and the canoe had filled with water and pulled down on top of him," Mr. Bowen reported.

Both boys were wearing flotation devices, but the current held Justin under water.

"To get the boy out, they tried to grasp his hands and arms," Mr. French said. "But the canoe had him pinned." It took all the Scouts and their leaders, using a piece of rail fence, to pry Justin free. They immediately began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Justin had been under water five to six minutes.

When paramedics with the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company arrived, they took over the life-saving efforts and transported Justin to Fallston General.

Mr. French said there have been fatalities on Deer Creek before, especially on a "very hazardous stretch of water" at Rocks State Park through which the Scouts had already passed. "But not involving a canoe," he said.

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