A Boy Scout leader from Maryland died of an apparent heart attack while on a Father's Day hike in New Hampshire's White Mountains with his troop, which included his two sons, authorities said.
Vernon "Rick" Rippeon of Westminster, Maryland, was one of four adults leading the 13-member group on the first day of a planned five-day hike in the presidential mountain range, said Lt. Wayne Saunders of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. The boys ranged in age from about 11 to 17.
Saunders said a call regarding a medical emergency came in at about 11:45 a.m. Sunday from the Crawford Path on Mount Pierce, known as the oldest continuously maintained footpath in the United States. He said Rippeon suffered a heart attack about 1½ miles up the trail. CPR was started almost immediately, but efforts to revive Rippeon were not successful, and he died on the trail.
"It starts to gain elevation quite quickly," Saunders said of the trail, but the group hadn't been hiking that long. "It's one of those odd things. There wasn't any rhyme or reason to it, and it was fairly quickly," Saunders said. "He just sat down on a rock and collapsed."
Gunnar Burdt, scoutmaster of Troop 735 of Gamber, just outside of Baltimore, said the nearly three-mile hike to an Appalachian Mountain Club hut was planned by Rippeon, a "high-adventure" outdoors trip in scouting, where "you go do something that's going to push your limits and tests your will," Burdt said.
"He was our map guy, our GPS man," Burdt said. "We relied on him heavily for planning these adventures."
The group has canoed 100 miles in update New York and backpacked in the Colorado Rockies. They chose the White Mountains this year; Rippeon, an avid hiker and scoutmaster before Burdt, had visited the area before with his older son, 17-year-old Ryan, about six years ago.
"He was familiar with the area and the Appalachian Trail," Burdt said. "Our plan was to go hut to hut for four days and we would summit to Mount Washington on our last day."
Burdt said half of the group had made it up, including Ryan. Others, including Rippeon, his son Patrick who is 11 or 12, and another leader were behind. When Rippeon collapsed, the other leader, an AMC employee coming down the mountain and two other hikers came to his aid, but Rippeon died.
Rippeon, a Navy veteran and an engineer, "always lived by the Boy Scout oath and law," Burdt said. "It was very important to him. Boy Scouts was in his blood."
Burdt said Ryan is about to earn his Eagle Scout honors, "which his dad is not going to see."