Washington Post Article on Jamboree Death
J. R. Madden (jmadden@OTB.COM)
Thu, 7 Aug 1997 07:15:00 -0500
Older Scout Let Boy Drive Humvee, Police Say
By Justin Blum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 7, 1997; Page B02
The Washington Post
Another Boy Scout let 16-year-old Robert Combes drive a U.S. Army Humvee at
the Scouts' National Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., after Combes said he
deserved a chance behind the wheel because he had spent a week handing out
ice from the back of the vehicle, police said yesterday.
Nathaniel Searls, 18, of Sioux City, Iowa, told police that he decided to
grant Combes his wish Monday night because they were traveling on a
little-used dirt road where they were unlikely to run into pedestrians or
other vehicles, said 1st Sgt. Anthony Lippa, of the Virginia State Police.
Shortly afterward, Combes lost control of the Humvee and was killed when it
flipped on top of him. Searls and another Scout, 18-year-old David Lipson,
of Moon Township, Pa., were injured in the accident. Combes was not
licensed to drive the Humvee because he was younger than 18 and had not
taken a training class.
"The only thing Searls told me was, `[Combes] asked me to do it, and I said
okay because we got on the back road. We didn't go where people were,' "
Lippa said Searls had signed out the Humvee, which he was licensed to
drive. Lipson and a fourth Scout in the vehicle, 18-year-old David
Lundstrom, of Rockford, Ill., apparently did not object when Searls gave up
the driver's seat to Combes, Lippa said. The vehicle was one of 16 Humvees
that the Army had lent to the Boy Scouts for delivery of supplies at the
nine-day jamboree, which ended Tuesday, and the four Scouts were among the
volunteers making the deliveries.
The three Scouts who survived the accident are upset and remorseful, Lippa
said. He said police do not plan to charge any of them in connection with
The state medical examiner's office said yesterday that Combes died of
"mechanical asphyxiation" resulting from being pinned under the Humvee.
Authorities said that there is no indication Combes was impaired by drugs
or alcohol but that they are waiting for results of toxicology tests before
ruling that out.
Searls and his family yesterday did not return a message left on a home
answering machine. He was treated for back pain after the accident.
Lipson, who suffered a clavicle fracture, came home late Tuesday with a
shoulder brace, said his father, Barry J. Lipson. His father declined to
comment on who was responsible for the accident. He said his son told him
he does not remember what happened, apparently because he also received a
"I didn't know if he would come off the airplane in a wheelchair or under
his own power. I'm just extremely happy he's in the shape he appears to be
in," said Barry Lipson, adding that he did not want his son to be
Lundstrom's mother, Jane Lundstrom, said her son was not home. "We're very
relieved and thankful that nothing worse happened," she said. "We have
great sympathy for the other families. It's very unfortunate." She said she
did not know enough about the accident to make further comments.
Combes will be buried tomorrow in his home town of Finleyville, Pa., about
20 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Someone answering the phone at the
Combeses' residence yesterday said the family did not want to be
According to their friends and families, at least three of the Scouts
involved -- Combes, Lundstrom and Lipson -- were Eagle Scouts, the highest
rank a Scout can achieve.
Officials with the Boy Scouts and the Army, which operates Fort A.P. Hill
and provided logistical support at the 30,000-Scout jamboree, said they did
not try to monitor who was driving the Humvees.
Army and police officials said they may suggest a stricter vehicle policy
for the next jamboree after they have completed their review of the
"That's obviously a topic of discussion for the next jamboree," said Lt.
Col. Pete Pearse, a spokesman for the Army. "I know there will be
discussions with the Boy Scouts of America on how the system was set up and
how it operated. Obviously, a 16-year-old should not have been behind the
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