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Tales of courage from Iowa Boy Scout camp where 4 died

A Boy Scout troop leader looks through what was left of a shelter where  four boy scouts were killed by a tornado that blew through a scout camp near Little Sioux, Iowa.
A Boy Scout troop leader looks through what was left of a shelter where four boy scouts were killed by a tornado that blew through a scout camp near Little Sioux, Iowa. Mike Ransdell / Kansas City Star / MCT

BLENCOE, Iowa — By the time the sirens blared Wednesday evening, some boy scouts at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch had already spotted the funnel cloud in the distance.

As the wind and the rain bore down on them, they bolted a quarter-mile through the woods, to a cinder-block bunkhouse built on a concrete slab. They were inside the shelter for mere moments before the door blew in. A scout leader shouted to take cover under the tables.

The whole episode in the shelter lasted about 30 seconds, said Zach Jessen, a 14-year-old youth scout leader from Fremont, Neb.

The shelter was obliterated. The tornado lifted a nearby pickup and flung it against the bunkhouse chimney, Zach said. The stone chimney collapsed and the debris fell on some of the scouts, Zach said.

Four scouts died and four dozen were injured. Lloyd Roitstein, an executive with the Mid-America Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said the four who died were found near the chimney.

Josh Fennen, 13, Sam Thomsen, 13, and Ben Petrzilka, 14, all from Omaha, and Aaron Eilerts, 14, from Eagle Grove, Iowa, died.

The scene afterward was panicked, Zach said, but the scouts and their leaders quickly began helping one another.

"There was screaming. Loud screaming," he said. "I'll never forget that."

Read the full story at KansasCity.com.

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