Live Free (With Fines) or Die (in Debt): New Hampshire Fines Injured Eagle Scout $25,000 for Mountain Rescue

180px-KensettJohnFrederickViewOfMountWashington100px-Seal_of_New_Hampshire.svgScott Mason, an eagle scout from Massachusetts, was praised in April after he spent three nights on Mount Washington in New Hampshire with a sprained ankle using his scout skills. New Hampshire officials, however, are now demanding payment of $25,000 for the rescue because he believe he was negligent in continuing on the height despite his injury. It appears that the “free” in “Live Free or Die” should not be read to literally.

Authorities say that Mason, 17, was not prepared for the hike and most importantly should have turned around when he hurt his ankle. Fish and Game Maj. Tim Acerno stated “When I twist my ankle, I turn around and come down. He kept going up.”

Seeking such a huge fine (the largest in the state’s history under a 9-year-old law allowing for fines for rescues caused by unreasonable conduct) seems a bit draconian in this case. These laws were originally designed to address the most reckless types of actions. I fail to see how this is so reckless and negligent to warrant such a fine. I understand that the state has been required to pay for 131 rescue missions at at cost of $175,320 but that is not a major expenditure — particularly when you consider the millions that the state gets from tourism. Rescues are a core governmental duty that should not be charged against citizens absent the most egregious circumstances.

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8 thoughts on “Live Free (With Fines) or Die (in Debt): New Hampshire Fines Injured Eagle Scout $25,000 for Mountain Rescue”

  1. The scout’s behavior was far from negligent, he’s a scout for crying out aloud.
    Perseverence, not a quitter, reaching your goals despite adversity.
    They are making a judgement call to premise this fine, I don’t see how an agency can make a final finding of facts, where the fined party disputes it.
    Such dispositive conclusion of negligence requires a court and/or jury to make such a finding, not a unilateral committee or adminstrator.

  2. C Everett writesMt. Washington is no place to screw around. He is fortunate.

    I’m what you might call an “indoors” sort of girl married to an avid hiker and backpacker. Personally, nature is something one passes through between the car and the hotel. Still, I have tremendous respect for any kind of wilderness situation. Hell, I have respect for the nature trails that are a few miles from my house and ae maybe a 5-6 mile casual loop up to and around some reservoir. There are snakes and mountain lions and all anyone needs to do is twist an ankle and be up there… even a mile from the trail head can spell disaster.

  3. in 1981, just before my first Christmas in the Mount Washington Valley, I met a couple of guys while playing darts in a local pub. One of the guys was a rock\ice climbing guide, real nice guy. About a month later Albert Dow was killed in an avalanche while searching for two ice climbers on Mt Washington.

    That’s who I think of every time someone gets lost on the rockpile.

    While many people, myself included, hike Mt Washington solo at all times of the year, this was an ambitious hike to undertake alone at that time of year. April weather can be pretty unstable on Mt Washington. You may start a hike in 90 degree blue skies and by the time you reach treeline it may be 10 degrees, so foggy you can’t see your hand in front of your face and 100 mile an hour winds. I’ve probably turned back 15% of the times I started a hike in the Presidentials mostly because of the weather.

    Hiking alone isn’t really a big deal, hiking that time of year isn’t either nor is the length of his intended hike but all 3 of those together plus leaving the trail he was supposed to be on was an accident waiting to happen.

    It was most definitely reckless of him to leave his planned route and if he did so because of an injury that doesn’t help his case as he should have turned back.

    I’m not convinced that this is an outrageous amount of money for a 3 day search and rescue mission. I’m also not convinced the state will actually make him pay the money.

    Mt. Washington is no place to screw around. He is fortunate.

  4. While there of course should be some penalty for stupidity that costs a State money, people tend to miss the real issue at stake. Ever since our President was a mediocre “B” movie actor,
    owned by a large defense contractor and with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, taxes have been turned into a bad word. So much so that it seems no one running for State government is willing to be associated in any way with raising the money needed to run our society. Due to that we have major infrastructure problems, a lousy public hospital system and a bad system of public education made that way due to poor funding. This is only the tip of the failed State Governmental iceberg.

    To make up for an increase of taxes spread fairly around the citizenry, the States have all increased, and increased again, their use taxes, like auto registration fees and sales taxes. This stealth taxation as usual falls mainly on those least able to afford it. So when it comes to basic rescue services one, even a libertarian, would expect of government, we now have fees added on. I predict the next big fee that will come is if you’ve been a crime victim, you will have a fee for calling the police. After all in some States like Alaska and Texas, they are charging alleged rape victims with the cost of the “rape kits” needed. This is especially ironic in Alaska that has the highest percentage of rapes of any State in the country.

    I don’t know if this kid proceeded recklessly, but I am aware of the claptrap that the BSA indoctrinates their scouts with and so his attempt to “soldier” on merely reflects his scout indoctrination and his only blame is in wasting his time in the first place with that ridiculous organization.

  5. Maybe the kid continued hoping that he’d have a great story to sell to People magazine.
    when I lived in Colorado they never charged for search and rescue until this group of execs and their wives decided to ski off the trail into some big powder area. they got lost and during the time they spent wandering around had huge arguments about which of them had rights to the story that they planned to sell. when found they were still arguing about who would play each of them in the TV movie. thats’ when colorado decided to charge for stupidity.

  6. Maj. Tim Acerno, who oversees law enforcement for Fish and Game in the Granite State and headed Mason’s rescue in April, said Mason “was negligent” in attempting to hike an “aggressive” trail in wintry conditions, and then taking a “difficult route even after spraining his ankle.”.

    The official response appears to contradict Acerno’s own earlier statements to the Patriot Ledger that Mason’s solo hike was“ambitious,” but “once he was lost, he did everything right.”


    Ok now we are on to something. Why has the Major changed his mind?

  7. “Fish and Game Maj. Tim Acerno stated “When I twist my ankle, I turn around and come down. He kept going up.”


    Well, I suppose we should fine ’em, and then hang ’em. Who needs considered judgment? We have the Acerno standard to guide us!

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