The storm parked itself over the Atlanta area around 3:45 p.m. Monday, snarling traffic, darkening the skies over northern Georgia and sending the Scouts at Bert Adams Boy Scout Camp scurrying for shelter.
Then tragedy struck. In winds that neared 50 mph, a weakened tree snapped, authorities said, crashing onto a platform tent where two Scouts were huddled.
The tent offered no protection, and a 14-year-old Scout attending a week-long jamboree was struck in the head and the chest. In a news conference that took place in the remnants of the rain, authorities said he died of blunt-force trauma.
“I think there was some sort of weather alert and the rain had started and I think they were making their way back to the tent, and he and his tent mate were actually in the tent together,” investigator Jeff Alexander of the Newton County Sheriff’s Office told reporters.
“I can’t even imagine what the Scout leader and the rest of the troop is going through right now, let alone the parents, who are that far away from their child. I wouldn’t even be able to put that into words.”
The second Scout in the tent managed to crawl out, uninjured.
“This is a very difficult time for our Scouting family,” the Atlanta-area council of Boy Scouts of America said in a statement. “We offer our deepest condolences to the victim and his family, and we will support them in any way that we can. Please join us in keeping all those affected in your thoughts and prayers.”
Authorities were investigating the incident. Bert Adams Boy Scout Camp, a 1,300-acre facility in Covington, Ga., more than 30 miles east of Atlanta, has not provided details of its severe weather policies, and it is unclear whether the boys — or whoever was in charge of them at the time — were abiding by them.
No one else at the camp was injured during the storm.
Authorities have not released the name of the boy, saying they are trying to notify his family. The Scout was from the Houston area, according to Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA.
Bert Adams Boy Scout Camp bills itself as a “modern camping experience like nothing you’ve ever seen.” Its amenities include a swimming pool, WiFi, air-conditioned dining hall and permanent, two-cot tents set on platforms similar to ones used during World War II. Scouts can play on the human foosball court or ride the camp’s zip line.
Overnight camps were scheduled for every week in June. Authorities did not say how many Scouts were at the camp at the time of the incident.
According to Atlanta Fox affiliate WAGA-TV, the week-long camps are structured much like classes, with Scouts working to earn merit badges on skills that include swimming, canoeing, riflery and handicrafts. Evening hours are busy with events, games and campfires.
Covington was never under a severe thunderstorm warning, despite wind gusts strong enough to bring down weak trees, WXIA reported.
In Newton County, Alexander said, first responders were dealing with as many as 50 trees that fell in just a few hours.