Boy Scouts sued over death at Covington camp

Elijah Knight (FOX 5 Atlanta)

COVINGTON - The parents of a 14-year-old Boy Scout from Texas who was killed June 25 by a falling tree at Bert Adams Scout Camp in Covington have filed a civil lawsuit in Cobb County over his death.

According to FOX 5 Atlanta, Stephen and Courtney Knight, the parents of Elijah Knight, are suing the Boy Scouts of America and the Atlanta Area Council. Inc. Boy Scouts of America for wrongful death. The Atlanta Area Council headquarters is in Cobb County.

“The Boy Scouts of America ignored weather advisories issued by the National Weather Service, including a Severe Thunderstorm Warning which was in effect at the time of Elijah’s death,” the lawsuit says. “Because the Boy Scouts did not evacuate all campers to a nearby building, Elijah Knight was left outdoors in a canvas tent during a hazardous storm with strong winds, lightning and hail.”

Jeff Alexander, a spokesperson for the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, said on June 25 Knight was in his tent along with his bunkmate when a tree crashed down onto him just minutes after a weather alert was issued about 3:45 p.m.

Knight died of severe blunt force trauma to his head and chest. Newton County Coroner Tommy Davis issued a statement ruling the manner of death as accidental.

The family is seeking damages for funeral expenses and pain and suffering as well as punitive damages.

“Having joined the horrible club of parents who have lost a child, and especially the community of parents whose child died in a scouting event, we hope to make systemic safety improvements that will preserve and protect the lives of many other children in the future,” said Stephen Knight said in a statement. “We hope to see a new level of safety standards, so no other family has to go through the same anguish.”

At the time of Knight’s death, Tracy Techau, Scout Executive, and CEO, Atlanta Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which operates the camp, said it was a weather-related incident where a tree fell on the boy during the storm. More than 50 trees fell at the facility during the late afternoon storm, but there were no reports of any other injuries from the weather.

“This is a very difficult time for our Scouting family,” Techau said in a media statement released June 25. “We offer our deepest condolences to the victim and his family, and we will support them in any way that we can. Please join us in keeping all those affected in your thoughts and prayers.”

The lawsuit cites other deaths at the scout camp, including a Cobb County father and his son in March 1999. During a Cub Scout camping weekend, Kenneth L. Lang Sr., 34, and Kenneth “K-2” Lang Jr., 7, died in their sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning after bringing a grill into their tent for warmth.

The Bert Adams Scout Camp is about 8 miles south of Covington. The 1,300-acre facility has been serving Scouts since 1960, and its summer camps are especially popular. The camp which Knight was attending at the time of his death was the last week of camp and continued after the accident.

More than 5,000 Scouts and others are expected at the camp March 22-24 for the “Scout Challenge: 2019 Council Camporee. It will be the first council-wide camping event for the Atlanta Area Council since 2016. Troops from across the Atlanta Area Council will camp jamboree style at Bert Adams for three days and two nights and participate in over 50 unique events and competitions.

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Born and raised in Decatur, Ga. Graduated from Shorter College in Rome, Ga. in 1979 with B.A. in Communications. Worked in community newspapers for 25 years. Started at Rockdale Citizen/Newton Citizen in January 2016.