In a bizarre accident at a rocket-launching event in southern California Saturday, a beloved Boy Scout leader was killed after one of the launched rockets struck him in the face.
The leader was named Michael Bentley, 50, a husband and father for four sons. Three of those sons are Eagles Scouts, and a fourth soon will be, the San Bernardino Sun reported.
The strange accident happened at the annual Rocket Rave held in Johnson Valley. The Rave gathers troop members for the launching of homemade and commercially made model rockets, the Press Enterprise reported.
Longtime friend Bryon Morales said safety precautions are taken every year and before Saturday’s incident, no one had ever been injured before.
“This is just one freak accident that is just unbelievable.”
— Jennifer Kastner (@JenniferCBSLA) November 17, 2015
A little over a dozen people had gathered for the Boy Scout event that day. Bentley was there, watching his friend launch a homemade rocket. Its take-off was successful, and he watched the path it took across the sky. Authorities believe Michael lost track of its trajectory and was still looking skyward when it came down, striking him hard on the face. Everyone immediately panicked, called 911, and rushed to his aid.
Everyone was somehow affiliated with the troop and knew CPR, the Sun noted. Several people, including registered nurses, tried to save his life before two off-duty San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials, who were at the event but in another area, rushed to the scene and soon noticed that the leader had suffered life-threatening injuries.
Those men, Lt. Sam Fisk and Detective F. Hernandez, called in a California Highway Patrol helicopter to fly him to a hospital in Palm Springs.
It was too late. Though he was rushed to operating room, the Boy Scout leader died in surgery. The extent of his injuries and exact cause of death wasn’t specified in local news reports.
The size of the rocket and the person who launched it was not released. In general, Boy Scout model rocket kits are one to three feet long, with bodies made of cardboard and tips of plastic or wood. The initial reports to 911 indicated that someone had been struck by a “bottle rocket.”
Now, Bentley is being remembered for his contribution to and leadership in the organization. He’d been with the organization since he was a kid; was the chartering-organization representative for his troop, which is sponsored by a local church; organized the Rocket Rave in 2013; and in 2010, received a Silver Beaver Award for his exceptional service as a leader.
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) November 16, 2015
“(He was) a great Scouter and a really great man. It’s a tragedy,” said council executive Joseph Daniszewski.
The Boy Scout leader was also a building plant operator at a local hospital, loved model trains, and was a member of the Inland Empire Model Railroader Club. He’s survived by his wife, Miyoung four sons, named Andrew, Daniel, James, and Sean.
Reached on the phone, one of the boys told the press that the family was too distraught to speak about the accident. Morales, the family friend, knew the man for 12 years and is a fellow member of their troop. He pointed out that their his sons are all Eagle Scouts and the youngest, James, will next receive the highest rank in the organization.
“(Michael) was a great mentor, always trying to help out the young men in the Boy Scouts. Just a great inspiration to a lot of young men and leaders.”
[Image via YouTube]