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Thursday, June 07, 2007
Hiker's death prompts policy change
I doubt there's a more uniquely beautiful setting in the entire world than the red rock canyons of Utah. They draw you in, but once you're inside those arid canyons you realize they're as grueling as they are inviting. You better bring your "A" game, be rested and HYDRATED!

It should have been a breeze for Dave Buschow. He'd hiked tundras, climbed mountains, jumped out of airplanes. This guy epitomized adventurousness. Why then did he die at a survival course near Boulder, Utah, last summer? The coroner's report says he died of thirst ... imagine that. (Watch a report on Buschow's death)

The Boulder Outdoor Survival School, or BOSS for short, says they didn't give Dave Buschow water because they wanted to help him pass their rigorous course, which teaches people how to survive in extreme wilderness. Their rules at the time stated you could only drink what you find along the way.

Dave Bushchow's mother says that's "macho stupidity." She says when he began showing signs of severe dehydration they should have given him water.

Dave Buschow dropped dead July 17th of last year. According to witnesses, he was cramping and delusional. He died an ugly death in a beautiful place, but it's not without consequence.

BOSS officials refused to answer our questions, but because of the incident, the school's permit for using federal land was partially suspended by the U.S. Forest Service. To get it back, the Forest Service said the survival school must change its course policy to include, among others things, that students carry water in a 32 ounce bottle. CNN has learned from Forest Service officials that the school will change its survival course policy.

The hope is that what happened to Dave Buschow won't happen again.

-- By Rick Sanchez, CNN Anchor
Posted By CNN: 10:49 AM ET
  23 Comments
Rick,
This in my opinion was just a senseless tragedy! The fact that the BOSS guides would not give Dave Buschow any water even as he lay there passing out and dieing is apprehensible!! I don't see why they can't be prosecuted for his death!!

It makes no sense to me that you can cause someones death and because they signed a waiver get away with it. Waiver or not...they should be held accountable!

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Cindy : 12:40 PM ET
Rick, Talk about macho stupidity!!
They also should have guides with common sense who can recognize medical emergencies. My heart goes out to his family.
Posted By Judy Stage/Brooklyn MI : 1:17 PM ET
I agree with the mother of Dave Buschow. Her son's death was senseless.

Everyone's body reacts differently to stress and dehydration. Regardless of the rules, when the BOSS instructors realized Dave Buschow was in distress, he should have been given water immediately.
They stood by and watched a human being die simply because of some stupid policy.

And regardless of what kind of release Dave Buschow signed before taking this course, BOSS should be held legally responsible for his death.

Dr. Kevorkian was sent to prison for assisting people who willingly signed a release. Why does BOSS get away with it?
Posted By Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 1:29 PM ET
Hi Rick,

Great coverage on the Dave Buschow tragedy. I live in Utah and these types of tragedies occur every summer. Often times the person who dies is a teenager whose parents have sent him/her to survival school to "straighten them out". I have always wondered why time and again trained professionals fail to act when they see the warning signs of exhaustion, dehydration, and hypothermia. Are these wilderness and survival schools regulated? It sounds like there are some regulations if they are operating on US Forest Service territory. I would love 360 to consider doing a follow story. Maybe look at some of the other incidents in the past few years and research how/if the programs are regulated. Are there any types of formal laws or regulations requiring trained medical professionals to be present during these ventures? How DO these companies become insured?

Dave’s death is such a tragedy but eventually the news will die down and attention will fade away until another summer rolls round and another senseless death occurs. It would be great if Dave's story could lead to some "real" regulation. Unfortunately, if stories about young teens dying while enduring forced participation in these programs have not effected change, I am doubtful the story of an adult who choose to challenge himself in this manner will have an impact. Maybe continued media focus on this industry would have an impact. I know CNN coverage of Warren Jeffs certainly seemed to kick authorities into action. Thanks again for your excellent coverage.
Posted By E.M. SLC, Utah : 1:47 PM ET
Rick,
What is so chilling about this survival school and its policies is,the students put their trust and lives into the hands of supposedly "trained" guides and the students were at their mercy.
Who was monitoring the guides to make sure they were making the correct decisions?

The school is trying to blame Dave for his own death because he signed a waiver,releasing the school from responsibility. I'm sure the waiver did not say,you are allowed to kill me. We all know there is danger in anything you do,but not death from dehydration,when water available.

I'm so sorry it took Dave's death and the agony the family must feel for the U.S. Forest Service to check BOSS's policies and makes changes. Where is the regulation for survival schools?

Betty,Marlton,NJ
Posted By Anonymous : 1:52 PM ET
Totally agree...they need to be accountable...Change of policy??? SHUT THEM DOWN...CLOSED...PERIOD!!!

Nothing they change will bring back Mr Buschow...thus this atrocity deserves more than a policy change.

If not, it is a DISGRACE!
Posted By Ray...Canada : 1:53 PM ET
Well....duhhh!!! The idiot-fool voluntarily signed up for the stupid survival course program. Serves him right! Same for people who jump out of airplanes, climb cliffs, and other STUPID "Extreme" sports activities. You put yourself in harm's way, what do you expect when you get harmed?!? Again....DUHHH!!! Look at it as "thinning the herd"!!
Posted By Calvin, St. Louis, MO : 1:54 PM ET
Man, we are truly a messed-up country/society/culture!! A veritable "Parade of Thrill-Seeking Fools"!!
Posted By Cindy, Cincinnatti, OH : 2:14 PM ET
This whole thing is so stupidly and typically American--everyone wants to have it "both ways." Well, YOU CAN'T!
Posted By Clint, Memphis, Tennessee : 2:15 PM ET
I am writing to express my outrage on hearing of the circumstances of the death of Dave Bushchow. I myself am an avid outdoorsman and military history buff. I also consider myself in decent physical condition, but due to the fact that I am very big and sweat profusely in the heat, I often require GALLONS of fluids during outdoor activity in the summertime. When I was a kid, my high school sports coaches frowned upon us drinking water during practice...however, that was almost 30 years ago. All medical intelligence since then, and since there have been heat exhaustion deaths even at the pro athletic level, stress the importance of avoiding dehydration at all costs. Even in the many real life military survival stories I have read the one basic rule is don't attempt to strenuously hike in the heat of the sun when low on or without water. You can teach survival skills and/or you can increase one's physical conditioning through exercise, but to suggest that you can teach someone you don't know to go without water during the initial days of a course like that is insane, especially without a medical doctor accompanying the group. This is especially dangerous during a dynamic training program, in 100+ degree weather, being attended by type A personalities like Dave, who are more apt to push their own envelope to the point of no return. I feel that BOSS and staff are guilty of criminal negligence in the circumstances of Dave's death. Furthermore, and what is more disturbing, is that the BOSS Instructors could have saved Dave many times before it was too late ; It is obvous that they were improperly trained, and did not have the medical skills or capability of judging when someone is about to die from Dehydration. Is that Teaching Survival?
Posted By Ray Coneys, NY : 2:37 PM ET
The first rule of survival in the desert is ALWAYS carry water, and replenish it at every opportunity. It doesn't matter if the water is nasty, green, slimy stuff. You refill your water container(s) any time you encounter water and your container(s) are not full.

Of course, it's okay to dump the nasty slimy stuff when you come across cleaner water, and it's okay to carry chlorine or iodine tablets to render the water drinkable. When using chlorine or iodine tablets in the West, you should be aware that the water out West is often alkaline, and will require more chlorine or iodine than usual.
Posted By LisaM, Sparks, NV : 2:50 PM ET
Those responsible for the hiker's death should be facing criminal charges. They claimed to be teaching survival skills. They need to be taught the concepts of accountability and responsibility.
Posted By Jeff Silverstein, Lebanon, NH : 3:11 PM ET
Yes, he chose to challenge himself. That is every person's right. And if he had died on his own, on a solo hike under those conditions, I would agree that it was his own fault. But he was not on a solo hike. He could have done that for free. He paid to go on a guided expedition with staff members along as a safety net. In the face of basic human decency, a man stood there, with water in his pack, and watched another man die a miserable death of dehydration.

Have you ever been dehydrated? I don't mean wanting to stroll down the hall to the water cooler, I mean really dehydrated. For those of you who haven't: You become disoriented. You become weak. You hallucinate. You are not capable of taking even simple actions to help yourself. That is why you don't do this kind of stuff solo. But -- despite all he was led to believe, despite the evidence of his own eyes -- Dave Buschow was in fact on a solo hike, with the people who should have been his safety net acting as nothing more than spectators.

If someone can't make it, you grade him "F". You wash him out of the school. You send him home with no refund. But in the name of all that's holy, you don't stand there and watch him die.
Posted By J.McGuire, Manchester NH : 3:46 PM ET
Rick,

Are you suggesting a follow up visit to the red rock canyons of Utah?
How has BOSS changed their processes since Dave Bushchow's death? Do we know, or are we taking their word for it?

Ariston Neto
Miami Beach, FL
Posted By Ariston Neto : 4:00 PM ET
Dave should have done a *raindance*, seeing as how was in the Southwest USA!! Maybe the BOSS (Bunch Of Stupid S___ts) trainers should have done a raindance...??
Posted By Cecil, Spokane, WA : 4:30 PM ET
This is one of the most tragic and crual stories I've heard. Passing a survival course is one thing but when you neglect and the safety of an individual you have crossed the line. I don't understand why they, BOSS, would forbid an individual who payed for the course, to drink water. I watched the previous segment on this story and if I remember correctly, BOSS was more concerned with Dave Buschow passing the course than his safety; which I can't understand because it wasn't as if BOSS would only receive their money if Buschow passed the course, they had already been paid, so why risk a paying costumer's life. It is horrendous!
Posted By Jessica, Bourbonnais Illinois : 6:51 PM ET
Dave Bushchow wasn't training to be macho, he simply wanted to find his limit. There are times when a little extra "push" of one's tolerance can be most beneficial.

In this case the guides were simply being smart asses, trying to appear macho. If no one was allowed to drink water from a source that they hadn't found, then the guides knew there was a chance they wouldn't find it in sand.

Lack of proper training, careless attitude toward a student in the course~~they should definitely be shot down, permanently No reopening under another name, with new personnel either.

Can anyone say "Wrongful Death"?

Maggie
Posted By Maggie, Grain Valley, MO : 7:22 PM ET
The "big" question. How many people have completed and survived this course? Were they taught something that Dave was NOT taught? or did Dave not do what he should have learned?
You don't shut down a school because it makes and abides by its rules if most participants complete the course.
Posted By D. Jones, Snohomish, WA : 7:30 PM ET
Whatever happened to plain and simple compassion for the suffering of others? If I see a panting dog or a wilted flower, I would give it water.

It is inconceivable to me how a person, who is charged with the safety of its students, can stand by and watch someone die!
Posted By Cathy Jones, Paramus, NJ : 12:07 PM ET
Dave was a son, a brother, a patriot, a poet and a lover of Mother Nature. He was not a thrill seeker,he was a student, he wanted to learn as much about the world around him as he could. Every trip opened his eyes to more wonders. Until this one.

He shared all his trips with his family and friends, he made us feel like we were with him on his journey of discovery.

Dave loved his family and friends. He cared for everyone and everything that touched his life. If he had been in charge of the hike everyone would have been safe. He would have made sure of that.

Souls like his are precious and few! He is missed every day. The world is less with him not in it!

Pat Buschow
Tafton, PA
Posted By Anonymous : 12:30 PM ET
Thank you for bringing this story to the public's attention. Dave's death is certainly a tragedy that could have been avoided - definitely by the guides and possibly by the other students who could have insisted that he be given medical attention when they first saw him in distress. Unfortunately, Dave's family and friends must endure this sorrow forever. Fortunately, or hopefully, changes in BOSS' policies will be made and thus Dave's death will not have been in vain. I certainly look forward to a follow-up story.
JY, Cresskill NJ
Posted By Anonymous : 5:14 PM ET
The death of Dave Buschow was a senseless tragedy that did not have to happen. The B.O.S.S instuctors should be held accountable for letting him suffer a painful death, by doing nothing to save him. How dare they try to play G-d!! What kind of training did they have? For a mere three thousand dollars you too can lose your life! It takes compassion,camraderie and good old fashioned common sense to give a suffering young man(29)a drink of water! Dave did not sign up to die! What constitutes an emergency to these instructors? They should be brought to trial and sent to jail for negligence and causing the death of a wonderful,loving human being. Why did they ignore the signs of his system breaking down? There has to be consequences for people who turn their back and let something so terrible happen right in front of them. Let justice be served! My loving thought are with Dave's family. Sincerely, Eileen Lebegue
Dumont, N.J.
Posted By Anonymous : 5:25 PM ET
Can the BOSS organization provide the following?

-Instructor training records showing how clearly instructors are trained in recognizing heat stress vs. heat exhaustion vs. heat stroke (as well as how learned they are in other aspects of outdoor survival)
-Their corporate risk management decision process on whether a 90-degree day is an appropriate day to commence this course (and prove that company profit has no stake in this important decision), and consequently how hot it would have to be to cancel or postpone the survival course. 95 degrees? 100 degrees? 105 degrees?
-Records indicating that the amount of emergency water they bring and/or provide correlate directly correlates to symptoms, temperature, and weather conditions. (Or is the decision-making left solely to the instructor's also limited judgement, since they are making hazy decisions based on a grueling hike with no water)
-The company's individual course cancellation policy indicating to what extent do any adverse weather conditions have an impact on the entire course cancellation. Would they start a course in the middle of a hurricane with the mentality that "survival is survival"? What temperature does it have to be to for it to be obvious to these "experts" that survival in the desert without water is sometimes not possible?
-Emergency response actions in place to remediate a situation or symptoms that have been recognized as out of the ordinary.

The results of this case clearly indicate to me that these records must not be available, or the situation would have been prevented. I can't see how they can possibly NOT assume responsibility for this tragedy. People who signed waivers to take this course were trusting in the company name and image that the instructors provided would actually teach them to survive utilizing a course landscape where survival is actually possible.

Nobody wants to shut down extreme outdoor sports or cancel every exciting and life-changing survival course there is. But any trusted adventure company should have proper training for their employees including set plans of actions for adverse symptoms and circumstances.
Posted By Sharon, Havre de Grace, MD : 3:31 PM ET
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