“This is a tragic accident, and our thoughts and prayer are with the families,” Steve Lightfoot, a spokesman for Texas Parks and Wildlife, told The Washington Post.
The agency is the lead investigator of the accident reconstruction to determine how the catamaran struck a transmission power line. It was too early to determine whether there were any boating violations that occurred, Lightfoot said.
The two other boys, who were Eagle Scouts, were 18 and 16, according to the parks agency. Their names have not been released.
Boy Scout officials are asking Scouts to show support during Thomas’s organ donation procedure Tuesday at Louisiana State University’s Shreveport medical center, where he was taken for care and later died. A flag will be raised, flown and then lowered and given to his family as fellow Scouts attend in uniform, Dewayne Stephens, the scout executive for Boy Scouts of America’s East Texas Area Council, said in a statement.
On Saturday, adventure-thirsty Boy Scouts had been mastering the outdoors across Lake O’ the Pines.
The more senior members of Troop 620, based in the small East Texas town of Hallsville, worked at one end of the public lake toward a merit badge involving motor boats. On shore, the troop’s youngest Scouts tended to their campsite. And aboard a catamaran in an alcove called Alley Creek, two teens with Eagle Scout distinction were mentoring an 11-year-old troop member as he learned to sail.
Then suddenly the catamaran caught fire, and the Scouts onshore were shouting for help.
Within minutes, a troop leader had hopped into a kayak and paddled upon the gruesome scene: two Scouts in the water and one on the catamaran. All were apparently shocked by a live power line strung just low enough to catch their 30-foot mast as they glided beneath it, according to state wildlife officials.
Some good Samaritans helped pull Thomas into their boat while the Scout leader performed CPR, said Daniel Anderson, chief operating officer for the East Texas Area Council, which includes Troop 620. They drove Thomas to the marina, where he was airlifted in critical condition to the Shreveport hospital, just across the state line.
“It was a tragic scene,” Texas Game Warden Quint Balkcom told ABC affiliate KLTV 7.
In an interview with The Post, Anderson said their Boy Scout community and the young men of Troop 620 who witnessed the boating accident are traumatized.
“We have to come together as a Scout family and make sure we are supporting those who are carrying quite a weight right now,” Anderson said.
More than 300 people gathered at a park in Hallsville on Sunday night for a vigil honoring Thomas and the Eagle Scouts. It was mostly a collection of other area troops, Anderson said.
All three of the young men involved in Saturday’s accident were members of the local Hallsville band, the Longview News-Journal reported. The newspaper named the two teens who were killed, but authorities had yet to release their identities. One was the son of the troop’s scoutmaster, the other the son of the troop’s assistant scoutmaster, according to the News-Journal.
“You’re talking about great young men, men of integrity,” Sherri Morgan, Hallsville band director, said at the vigil, according to the News-Journal. “We’re heartbroken. We’re devastated.”
“All is not lost. They leave a legacy,” she added. “So they are going to live on forever.”
The East Texas Area Council confirmed the boys’ deaths and Thomas’s injuries in a statement.
“This is an extremely difficult time for our Scouting family,” the statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families. We will support them in any way that we can.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called the boating accident a “terrible tragedy” in a statement and said his “thoughts and prayers go out to the Boy Scouts and their families.”
Kelly Weatherford, a longtime and close family friend of Thomas Larry’s parents, told The Post she spent Saturday night and Sunday morning in the hospital, waiting for news about an 11-year-old boy that she said was “the funniest, goofiest kid.”
“He’s a little comedian,” Weatherford said, speaking before Thomas’s death. “He makes everybody smile. He’s such a cool kid.”
While doctors performed tests and she watched her friends brace for the worst, Weatherford said she “felt so helpless.” On Sunday, she created a GoFundMe page to help the Larrys pay for Thomas’s medical expenses. By early Monday, it had collected more than $8,000.
“There’s nothing else you can do” except pray, Weatherford said. “I don’t know how else to help them.”
Thomas’s older brother John was also on the lake when the catamaran caught fire. He watched as a medical crew worked on Thomas and took him away in an ambulance, Weatherford said.
She said the Larry boys were taught “to work hard and be responsible.”
“They’re on a lake with the Boy Scouts,” Weatherford said. “That sounds like the safest thing ever.”
Anderson said he wasn’t aware of any youth Boy Scout fatalities in East Texas in recent memory. Troops there go camping all the time, he said.
The accident is being investigated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s boating accident reconstruction and mapping team, officials said.
While they wait for answers to their questions, such as why the power line was so low or located over water at all, Troop 620 is drawing from its roots.
There are 12 points in Scout law, Anderson said, and three resonate in this moment.
“A Scout is reverent.”
“A Scout is loyal.”
“A Scout is brave.”