Tuesday evening Boy Scout Benjamin Kohler spent more than 12 hours separated from his troop in the High Uintahs before he was found in “perfect health” Wednesday by a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter crew.
Troop 217 from Midway, UT was doing a 50-miler around Yellowstone Canyon and Swift Creek Basin. While fishing at a nearby lake, some of the boys decided to head back to camp, which was about a half mile away.
14-year-old Benjamin was still fishing with the rest of the troop when he decided to try and catch up with the others who had already left for camp. Alone, he headed out and after taking a wrong turn somewhere on the trail, he realized he was lost, stopped immediately, sat down and waited.
He had learned in his Scout training that, when you are lost, instead of continuing to find your way and risk getting more lost, you should stop and think about how to help others find you.
When help didn’t come, he sheltered in for the night, choosing a wide open place next to the trail, figuring they would find him in the morning.
Scout leaders, Jared Gailey and Jason Bellows, realized the boy was missing about 9 p.m. One of them began a 12-mile hike to call for help. The local sheriff’s office received the first report of a missing person about 6 a.m. Wednesday, according to Deseret News.
About 10:30 a.m. the helicopter crew found Benjamin in the clearing, and upon checking his vitals, found him “in perfect condition.” Not only had the 14-year-old Scout followed perfect hiking protocol, but he followed the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared,” having sufficient food and water for this ordeal.
While flying away to safety, one of the crew asked the Scout if he wanted to go to the sheriff’s office or back home. He said, “Well, we have two days more of camping…can’t I go back to our camp?” The pilot laughed and flew him straight there.
Upon getting two more leaders from the LDS ward to assist, Gailey and Bellows left it up to the boys to decide what they wanted to do. Every boy said they were having a great time and wanted to finish their 50-miler, even though they were a bit behind schedule.
An e-mail from the troop’s bishop testified of the experience. He said, “The results speak for themselves. We can certainly learn from some things that happened, but this has been a wonderful, testimony-building experience. You have a young man who has confirmed to himself that he can do hard things in very tough situations: to not quit, to call upon the Lord and stay the course. What better preparation is there for a mission than this? We have a dozen boys that watched this play out and also had their testimonies strengthened in the process.”
When asked whether she was worried about her son, Sunny Kohler said, “I knew my older boys would have been fine, but wondered how Ben would do – he is my baby, my youngest. Now I don’t have to worry about that. To know and see that Ben ‘got it’ is a relief to a mother. He can take care of himself. What more can a mom ask for?”
After the event reached the news, Sunny received several calls from people who said, “This is why I don’t put my boys in Scouting.”
“I was very upset by their comments,” Sunny said. “I will always send my boys to Scouting! This is what boys are made to do. If they don’t go, they will never get those chances to learn and grow and become men. The Scouting program has taught all three of my boys how to become men. They know what to do and how to stay mentally strong.”
Sunny also thanked all the Scoutmasters that have lead her boys; who have gotten them outside and taught them what to do. They taught by example and inspired the boys to go and do.
On the news:
( Editor’s note: Aside from this instance of ignoring the buddy rule when hiking, every proper procedure and good practice was followed. There was a tour plan filed, proper planning for food, water and shelter, and authorities and families were contacted. I can’t think of a better ending to a potentially disastrous situation. Scouting is the program that teaches these life-changing skills to our young men, leaders and communities. There is no doubt about that.)
Author: Melany Gardner | Editor, The Boy Scout | Orem District Executive, Utah National Parks Council