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Family members of a motorcyclist who was killed when a tree cut down by Boy Scouts fell on him as he drove on Utah's State Route 12 have filed suit over his death.
In the lawsuit, Edgar Riecke's son and two daughters along with their father's estate accuse Boy Scouts of America and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of negligence. The church chartered the Fruit Heights troop that was cutting and gathering firewood, the suit says.
Also named as defendants are the Trapper Trails Council, which the suit says is responsible for overseeing youth and Scout leaders in Kaysville and Fruit Heights; five troop leaders; and the two Scouts, then 14 and 17, who cut down the tree. In addition, the parents of the then-14-year-old Scout are being sued because he has not turned 18, making them responsible for his actions, according to the suit.
The suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, seeks an unspecified amount of money.
"While we cannot comment on active litigation, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with everyone affected by this tragic incident and we extend our deepest sympathies to all those involved," Allen Endicott, an executive with the Trapper Trails Council, said Monday on behalf of the defendants.
Pointing out that investigators had concluded the incident was a tragic accident, Endicott also said, "Safety is integral to everything we do, and the Boy Scouts of America continues to place great importance on providing a safe environment for all involved, including Scouts, leaders and the public."
Riecke died on Oct. 11, 2014, at the scene of the accident, about 20 miles south of Torrey and 18 miles north of Boulder in Garfield County. The 69-year-old Durango, Colo., man was a retired chemist and a competitive bicycle racer.
According to the suit, Troop 603 members were collecting firewood on U.S. Forest Service land in Dixie National Forest in the Escalante Ranger District. The troop had a Forest Service permit for the removal of fallen firewood, but the approval did not allow the removal of green trees or standing trees, the suit says.
Two Scouts cut down a live, green aspen tree along the eastern shoulder of State Route 12 at about mile marker 105.2, which was a violation of federal law, the suit alleges. After the two spent 45 minutes whittling all the way around the trunk without adult supervision the tree fell toward the road, the suit says.
At about the same time, Riecke, who was wearing a helmet, was traveling north on his motorcycle along State Route 12, the suit says.
"As Mr. Riecke traveled around the corner and passed mile marker 105, the tree fell directly on top of him, killing him," the suit says.
Any reasonable person the same age as the two Scouts, the suit says, would have foreseen that a tree falling near any roadway was "highly dangerous and capable of causing injury to a nearby motorist."
The suit also alleges that the troop leaders were "grossly negligent" to entrust tree-removal tools to the Scouts and not supervise the boys.
No one was prosecuted in connection with the death. In March 2015, Garfield County Attorney Barry Huntington issued a memorandum addressed to the Utah attorney general's office that said he had determined there was insufficient evidence that the Scouts involved had the "required mental state, intent or recklessness necessary to reasonably convince a judge or jury they committed a crime."
The memo also said all law enforcement agencies that investigated including the sheriff's office, the Utah Highway Patrol and the Forest Service recommended against prosecution because "the incident was a tragic accident."
In June, American Standard Insurance Co. sued Boy Scouts of America in Utah's 6th District Court over the damaged motorcycle. The company, which alleged the organization breached its duty of care when supervising the Scouts, is seeking $9,551 plus interest for the bike. That suit is pending.