PROVO -- An accident that claimed the lives of 13 people on a Boy Scout expedition altered lives, including that of Tom Heal, then 15.
"It was a defining moment that changed my life," Heal said. "I realized that life was to be lived to the fullest. It's why I've done many of the things I've done."
Forty-five years ago on Tuesday, a cattle truck loaded with Boy Scouts and their leaders rolled backward off an embankment and tumbled down a steep ravine, killing 12.
The 13th victim, a Scout leader, died in a Panguitch hospital days later. The accident occurred on a dusty desert road about 45 miles from Escalante in southern Utah.
The dead included a Deseret News reporter, Dorothy Jane Hansen; Scoutmaster Harvey Darrell Taylor and his assistant Scoutmaster, William Allen Creer; Merlin J. Shaw, who headed the expedition; and a Salt Lake City teacher, Robert Cook.
Scout victims were Joseph William Erickson, Gordon Henry Grow, Randall Melvin Hall, Randy Wayne Miller, Gary Lynn Rasmussen, Lynn Merrill and Gary Christensen. More than 2 dozen were injured in the June 10,1963, tragedy.
Leaders had packed more than 40 people into the 2.5-ton cattle truck on their way to Hole-in-the-Rock, where they were to meet with about 50 boaters for a Colorado River adventure. The original plan was to transport the Scouts to the site by bus and the gear by truck, but a service station attendant along the way said a bus would never make it over the rough terrain. So the passengers were packed into the truck with a week's worth of gear.
The truck started up the steep hill in a higher gear, then the driver tried to shift down as he approached the crest, Heal said. When he couldn't get it into gear he tried to brake, but the truck failed to respond and rolled 124 feet backward down the hill before plunging off a 35-foot embankment.
Boy Scout Memorial
JUST PRIOR TO THE CREATION of Lake Powell, a party of 49, including Explorer Scout Post 36 from LDS Pleasant View 3rd Ward, Provo, Utah, set out on an expedition to run the Colorado River rapids between Hole-in-the-Rock and Glen Canyon. Riding in an open truck, they reached this point at approximately 3:15 on the afternoon of June 10, 1963. The truck stalled as it ascended the grade on your left, and its brakes failed. Rolling backward, it overturned and rolled down the steep embankment on the other side of the sharp curve from this monument. Seven scouts and six adults lost their lives in this tragic highway accident, the third worst in Utah's history. In loving memory of those who perished: Gary Lynn Christensen, 14 Lynn Louis Merrell, 15 Robert Cook, 29 Randy Wayne Miller, 14 W.A. "Bill" Creer, 39 Marvin Poschatis, 29 Joseph William Erickson, 16 Gary Lynn Rasmussen, 15 Gordon Henry Grow, 15 Dr. Martin J. Shaw, 51 Randy L. Hall, 13 Dr. Harvey Darrell Taylor, 45 Dorothy Hansen, 24 Erected and dedicated June 10, 1993 by the families and friends of those who perished, in cooperation with Kane County and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Location: vic. 1862 BLM Road Marker
Carcass Wash, 2.3 m. SE. of Dance Hall Rock