St. Helena, CA — A town that is known more for its world-famous wineries than its sense of community honored two of its own Friday at a memorial service for the teenage Boy Scout and assistant troop leader killed by lightning while backpacking in Sequoia National Park.
More than 1,000 people filled a tree-studded lawn at the Charles Krug Winery for the 90-minute service honoring Ryan Collins, 13, and Stephen McCullagh, 29.
Their mothers and fathers, as well as fellow Scouts who were with them on the fatal trip, took turns eulogizing two people who shared a love of the outdoors and helping others.
They were “extremely inspirational people – courageous, honest, truthful and sincere,” said Jeff Johnson, a commissioner with the Napa Valley District of the Boy Scouts. “Almost before you could ask for a volunteer they would be there, which is pretty true of most scouters, but especially true for these two.”
McCullagh and Ryan were killed during an eight-day backcountry hike with six other teenage Scouts and four other adult troop leaders when a lightning bolt struck a tarp they had set up in a meadow while taking shelter from a storm July 28.
Two Scouts then grabbed maps and ran for help for 25 minutes to a ranger station, where five helicopters were summoned to evacuate the group.
McCullagh was pronounced dead at the scene, while Ryan died the next night at University Medical Center in Fresno.
Friday´s service drew Boy Scout troops from throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
From the wine and cookies to the public-address system and printed programs, local families and businesses donated everything for the event, winery owner Peter Mondavi Jr. said.
“So many people know about Napa Valley and the wineries, but what many tourists don´t experience is the community support here. The tremendous outpouring here which is reminiscent of a small, tight-knit community where both individuals spent literally all their lives.”