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Scouts found in Sugar River search

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
October 10, 2011
— The Rock County Sheriff's Office has advice for people who go on adventures into unfamiliar wilderness: Take a cell phone.

The advice comes in the wake of a six-hour search along the Sugar River near the state line in southeast Rock County on Saturday and Sunday.


The four Boy Scouts who were lost were found safe and sound after an Illinois Department of Transportation helicopter spotted their campfire at 1:08 a.m. Sunday.


The adult leader had taken the boys' cell phones earlier in the trip, "as he didn't want any of them to lose their phones in the river, so they were unable to call for assistance," according a sheriff's office news release.


"In this instance, if the boys had at least one cell phone with them, not only could they have called for help immediately after losing their way, but also a trace could have been done to pinpoint their exact location as soon as the emergency call was received," the news release states.


The four boys, ages 12-13, were part of a Scout troop from Mendota, Ill. Eighteen boys and their leaders launched canoes at the DNR grounds at 17305 W. Beloit-Newark Road in Avon Township around 11 a.m. Saturday.


The four boys in their two canoes were seen around 1:30 p.m. Saturday. They were noticed to be missing when the group arrived at Sugar River Park, 11317 N. Nelson Road.


The group waited 30 minutes, and the boys did not shown up. A leader and another canoe then left the rest of the group and searched upstream, according to the news release.


The search was fruitless, and the leader then speculated that the boys had gotten ahead of the main group. The members of the group continued downstream to their destination, the Winnebago County Forest Preserve in Illinois, where they planned to camp overnight. The boys were not at the campsite.


The leaders called the Winnebago County, Ill., sheriff's office at 7 p.m., triggering a search.


Winnebago authorities called Rock County sheriff's deputies for help at about 10:13 p.m.


Fire and rescue personnel from Albany, Brodhead, Orfordville and town of Beloit also helped in the search, using johnboats and ATVs to search the dense foliage.


The missing boys probably took a wrong turn after the group portaged "and easily became lost trying to navigate their way around unfamiliar waters," the news release states. "Once darkness set in, they were unable to navigate further, so they got out of the water, started a campfire and waited for help to arrive."


The helicopter found them in the woods along the river, about two miles north of the state line.


"The chopper landed in a nearby field, and the pilot walked out to escort the boys to safety.


The boys were not injured and were flown to the Shirland (Ill.) Fire Department, where they were turned over to family," according to the release.



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