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Two Boy Scouts dead, third clings to life after sailing tragedy

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 8/7/2017 John Bacon
Eagle award. © Martha Irvine, AP Eagle award.

Two Eagle Scouts were dead, an 11-year-old Scout was clinging to life and a small East Texas town was in shock and mourning Monday after a Catamaran the boys were sailing apparently hit a power line.

Local media identified the victims as Will Brannon, 17, Heath Faucheux, 16, and Thomas Larry, 11. More than 300 people turned out at a candlelight vigil Sunday night in Hallsville, a town of about 3,500 people 140 miles east of Dallas.

"It's been a real shock to the community," Mayor Steve Eitelman told USA TODAY. "Kids, scouting, service to God and our country, that is what we are all about here."

Residents set up meal trains and a GoFundMe page for the families. Eitelman, who has lived in Hallsville for 35 years, said the entire town is rallying around the families.

"Their tragedy is our tragedy," Eitelman said. "We get involved, we try to help. But I know I am powerless. The truth is it's in God's hands."

Kelly Camp Weatherford, a friend of the Larry family, set up the GoFundMe page to help cover expenses for Thomas. It reached its $10,000 goal in 20 hours.

"Thomas is at LSU in Shreveport on life support," she wrote on the page. "They did a partial test for brain functions but they were negative. ... They are not very optimistic but there is a chance."

Preliminary investigations indicate the Scouts were electrocuted when their Hobiecat Catamaran collided with an overhead transmission line Saturday in Lake O' The Pines near Avinger, Texas Parks and Wildlife said in a statement

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Game wardens arrived at the scene to find the Catamaran on fire with the sails up about 300 yards north of the power lines, the statement said.

"Absolute chaos," Capt. Quint Balkcom of Texas Parks and Wildlife told KLTV in Tyler, Texas. "This is a terrible event, it absolutely is."

Wardens discovered the older teen onboard and another in the water a short distance away. Both victims "suffered severe bodily injuries" and were dead at the scene, the statement said.

The 11-year-old victim was found unresponsive in a boat nearby, with good Samaritans administering CPR. He was airlifted about 70 miles to LSU Medical Center-Shreveport in Louisiana.

All three were wearing personal flotation devices at the time of the accident, the agency said.

Balkcom said the boat was impounded so investigators can "a full picture of what happened in this horrendous event."

"A terrible tragedy," Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted. "Our thoughts & prayers go out to the Boy Scouts & their families.

Dewayne Stephens, CEO of the Scouts' East Texas Area Council, issued a statement thanking emergency teams for their response.

"This is an extremely difficult time for our Scouting family," Stephens said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families. We will support them in any way that we can."

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