New Jersey Scouts help rescue NBC journalist Ann Curry

ann-curry-photoScouts learn first-aid skills in Scouting without ever knowing when they’ll need to use them. Or on whom.

Last month a group of New Jersey Boy Scouts helped rescue the NBC journalist Ann Curry after she had broken her ankle while hiking.

On April 5, 2014, Scouts from Troop and Crew 368 out of Berkeley Heights, N.J., were on a Philmont training hike through Harriman State Park in New York.

That’s when, as Scouter Rick Jurgens told me this morning, they came across Curry. Only they didn’t know it was the Emmy-winning journalist right away.

“We were hiking along, and we came to a trail intersection,” Jurgens said, “and a lady was sitting on the ground with her one leg out. We didn’t think anything of it, but one of the guys asked if everything is OK. She said, ‘No, not really. I think I broke my ankle.’ She told us to keep going, but the guys refused.”

With no prompting from Jurgens, the Scouts sprang into action. This is what they had trained for.

“They splinted it up perfectly,” Jurgens said. “Just like in the pictures.”

Jurgens, a professional firefighter and EMT, double-checked their work and found they had made a textbook splint.

“We work on these requirements, and here’s an opportunity where it was a true test of all those First Class, Second Class first-aid requirements,” he said. “They got to use it and use it for real. And they did an outstanding job.”

Curry, in a letter she later sent to the Scouts, praised their emergency readiness, saying they went “above the call of duty.”

“Discovering I was unable to walk, and needed to get down the mountain for medical care, you immediately set about to help,” she wrote.

Not out of the woods yet

They splinted Curry’s leg, but she still needed to get down the mountain and couldn’t walk or be safely carried down the steep terrain. The Scouts again knew what to do.

“The guys on their own, with no direction from me, start running into the woods,” Jurgens said. “And she didn’t know what was going on, and I didn’t know what was going on either.”

Turns out they were finding pieces of wood for a makeshift stretcher — the same kind they teach you to make in first-aid classes. They found two strong sticks and tied on a tarp. One of the Scouts, Andrew Stecher, got on the stretcher to test its load-bearing ability. It worked.

They set the stretcher next to Curry, her ankle really swelling up now. She slid onto it, and the Scouts picked her up. Jurgens and another adult helped guide the Scouts and point out rocks along their path.

In good spirits throughout

Curry’s skillful reporting has taken her to Iraq, Congo, Iran, Sudan and other areas of international crisis. So, Jurgens said, it’s no surprise this situation didn’t seem to raise Curry’s blood pressure too much.

“She was in a good mood, asking us about our Philmont trip,” Jurgens said. “She wanted to hear what brought us to Harriman State Park.”

Curry’s husband and son went ahead to get their SUV and drive it to the trailhead. The Scouts helped Curry into the front seat of the car, and before they left, Curry’s husband thanked the Scouts.

“He told us, ‘You guys are the best,'” Jurgens said. “‘I don’t know what I would do without you guys.'”

Curry’s husband wrote down Jurgens’ contact info and left for the hospital.

What happened next

Once Curry and her family had driven away, the forest rangers arrived.

“They asked, ‘Is there somebody up there who needs rescuing?’ And we said, ‘It’s taken care of,'” Jurgens said.

Jurgens praised the Scouts for a fantastic job. Then he broke some news to them.

“I said, ‘Do you know who that woman was? That was Ann Curry.'”

Jurgens had recognized Curry, and her iconic voice, right away. But not all the Scouts in his troop and crew are avid news-watchers. So Chris Tribuna, acting crew leader, took out his phone and showed them Curry is a national news anchor who has interviewed pretty much everyone.

The Scouts were floored by all the famous people she had interviewed, exotic assignments she had covered and adventures she had been on.

Even after that, one Scout in the group didn’t believe it was Ann Curry. That is, until a few weeks later when he got a letter.

A call, and a letter, from Curry

Last week, Jurgens got a phone call from a number he didn’t recognize.

“She said, ‘Hi, is this Rick? This is Ann Curry, the lady you rescued on Bear Mountain.’ She was really great and really appreciative. She said she underestimated the Boy Scouts of America. She was just mesmerized that a bunch of 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds came together and got her down the mountain,” Jurgens said.

Curry got the addresses of everyone who was there that day and sent each a hand-signed letter thanking them for their “skill and professionalism.” See the letter below.

“I feel enormously lucky you came along at just the right moment, and were so willing to help a stranger in need,” she wrote. “You are a credit to the Boy Scouts and to your families, and I want you to know I am deeply grateful for your kindness and skill.”

Update, May 9: Curry Tweeted (to her 1.4 million followers) her thanks to the Scouts of Troop 368:

My takeaways

What I love about this story is that while this one has a famous name associated with it, these types of stories happen all the time in Scouting. It’s what Scouts train for.

“No matter who that was, we would’ve done the same exact thing,” Jurgens said. “The guys didn’t know this was a special person at first and treated her with the most dignified respect. It was all on the guys.”

Speaking of, I was moved by how little credit Jurgens was willing to take for his role.

“I wish I could say, I told them to do this and that,” Jurgens said, “but they did it all on their own.”

The Scouts

From left: Devon McLean, Michael Middlebrook, Joe McLaughlin, Christopher Friedlander, Chris Pirone, Mark Trella, Andrew Stecher and Chris Tribuna.
Not pictured: Peter Krasny

curry-boy-scouts

Curry’s letter

Click to enlarge

curry-letter

102 thoughts on “New Jersey Scouts help rescue NBC journalist Ann Curry

  1. BZ to Troop 368! Rush Limbaugh did a segment on this story on his Monday afternoon show and ended with the statement that the “Southern Poverty Law Center” has branded us as bigots and homophobes because we don’t have Gay and Lesbian Leaders. Rush stated that as he looked at these 8 young scouts he did not see anything other some great youth that we all can be proud to know. My question is could someone check to see if Miss Curry has ever written about the Scouting movement. It would be interesting to know her views prior to this contact.

    • Not sure what this has to do with the political mud-slinging du jour. From where I sit, if anyone was actually successful in applying the former membership standard to gay youth, the end result would have been fewer boys on the trail with the skills needed to help in emergencies.

      And with all due respect to the many parents who are concerned about the example of conduct being set before our boys, we have to remind ourselves that the tradeoff is we may be depriving certain units of the leader best suited to teach their boys what it takes to manage rescue situations like this.

    • OK! So 13 of you gave my note a thumbs down. All I was asking was just what was Ms.Curry’s “estimate” of the Boy Scouts of America prior to this? She told them “to keep going” when they tried to help. My point is that she probably has never had any contact with Scouts, hence the “underestimate” of our skills and the wiliness to help.

  2. The Scouts are still around and as strong as ever, People this is the time to act and get your son’s into Scouting and let them experience the adventures that Scouts take part in,

  3. Let’s see… 3 life Scouts, at least 3 Star Scouts, a 2nd Class Scout and a
    either (Star or 1st Class) Scout, all but the 2nd Class Scout likely have the
    First Aid MB. Well trained and ready. A job well done.

    From a 1961 Silver Award Air Explorer.

  4. Why did it take over a month for an enlightning story like this to be released? If anyone were to offer such aid to me as these Scouts did for Ms. Curry I would have reported their actions on my way to the hospital. Maybe in typical liberal fashion, she was reluctant to expose good news about an organization which her left-leaning cronies despise?

  5. I have hiked that trail at least 50 times as a kid and leader, it was my troops favorite place to go. We even build a campsite off the trail and used it almost every month year round. Next to a beaver dam and stream for fresh water. The NY Forest Rangers kept an eye on it for us and sometimes had some jobs for us to do such as some other trail repair. It was a good trade. Late 1950’s – 1960’s. Troop 529, Manhattan.

    On one trip a new scout hit him self in the head with a hatchet and was out and bleeding pretty bad. We also had to build a stretcher and carry him down the mountain. That mountain is not easy to go down with someone on a stretcher. My hat is off the that group of scouts.

  6. I just read the Ann Curry story. I have hiked that trail at least 50 times as a kid and leader, it was my troops favorite place to go. We even build a campsite off the trail and used it almost every month year round. Next to a beaver dam and stream for fresh water. The NY Forest Rangers kept an eye on it for us and sometimes had some jobs for us to do such as some other trail repair. It was a good trade. Late 1950’s – 1960’s. Troop 529, Manhattan

    On one trip a new scout hit him self in the head with a hatchet and was out and bleeding pretty bad. We also had to build a stretcher and carry him down the mountain. That mountain is not easy to go down with someone on a stretcher. My hat is off the that group of scouts.

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