Yesterday’s Gazette had an article from the AP about Dave Buschow who died last July while taking a survival training course in Utah. For some reason I couldn’t find the Gazette online version but I found it on another website.
When it happened last summer, I never could find many details on it. Even with what I could find it seemed like the course instructors had pushed Dave too far. I generally believe that people are responsible for what happens to them. There are a lot of risks in life whether you’re in the backcountry or not. Sometimes bad things happen and they aren’t someone elses fault. In some cases it’s because someone made a bad decision but they thought it was the right decision when they made it. I’ve certainly done that.
There was a post on out there last July about who’s responsible for risks in various outdoor activities. The article was in response to Dave’s death. On it I commented
In the case of the guy asking for water and not being given it, I don’t know all the details but that seems like a bad thing on the part of the instructor. I can see limiting food but water isn’t something you can survive long without. I could be convinced that in this case the instructor and the school are at fault.
After reading the article, I was more than convinced the instructors were at fault. I was outraged at their actions. The temperature was around 100 degrees. The group found water around 8:30 in the morning. They drank from the water but weren’t allowed to put any in bottles to carry with them. The idea was they could only drink when they found water. Although they tried to find water throughout the day, they never found any.
Dave got to the point of falling down and the others in the group had trouble getting him back to his feet. At one point he mistook a tree for a person. His tongue was swollen. He would hurry off in the wrong direction. Finally around 7 PM over 10 hours after last drinking water, the group got to a cave with a pool of water. Dave fell again less than a 100 yards from the water. He said he couldn’t continue but the instructor with him kept telling him he could make it. Dave quit breathing and the group was unable to revive him. It turns out the instructor had emergency water in his pack.
I just can’t imagine going that long without drinking even in cool conditions let alone in that kind of heat. It’s one thing to push people to exhaustion from long days of hiking or from lack of food but not from lack of water. It was also the 2nd day of a 28 day course. It takes time to acclimate to the dry desert air and the heat. Dave was from New Jersey so I’m sure he wasn’t used to the dryness. Before I’ve done long bike races in the desert, I’ve done heat training in my bathroom.
I’ve done up to week long backpacking trips by myself in the Superstition Mountains and the Grand Canyon. I’ve almost been out of water when I’ve found more. Only once was I out of water for a couple hours before finding more. The temperature was only around 60 degrees. I was making a loop and I knew I could cut to where I had gotten water a couple days before. That would have probably meant 6-7 hours without water. For the couple hours before I found water, finding water was about the only thing I thought about. I can’t imagine what I would have been thinking after over 10 hours without water in 100 degree weather.