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Boy Scout leader dies after strike by lightning

Fellow Scouts complete work scoutmaster began

Saturday, June 23, 2001

By Joel Rosenblatt, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Even after Boy Scout leader Jack Magyar died yesterday from injuries he suffered after being struck by lightning, any notion of canceling the week-long outing he had directed for 118 Scouts was quickly dismissed.

Magyar's wife, Alice, supported the decision to carry on.

"Don't even consider canceling his course. It's not what Jack would've wanted," she told Robert Mazzuca, Scout executive for the greater Pittsburgh Council of the Boy Scouts of America. "He was doing what he loved."

Magyar, 56, of Eighty Four, had spent the last year planning a week-long leadership training program for adult and teen-age Boy Scouts at Camp Twin Echo in Fairfield, Westmoreland County.

Around 7 p.m. Wednesday, lightning struck a pine tree near Magyar, H. Brian Peck, 51, of Canonsburg, and Peck's son Colin, 15. All three were knocked down.

The elder Peck was in fair condition last night at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown. His son was treated for injuries.

"When Jack was struck, he did not have a pulse. He was not breathing," Mazzuca said.

But as Scout leader Larry Lynch started cardiopulmonary resuscitation, other Scout leaders moved into action.

A team of crisis counselors arrived to talk with the Scouts.

"We drill on these kinds of things," Mazzuca said. "The kids were part of the process to recover. It was a somber mood, but they worked through it."

Magyar, a father of three children and a third-grade school teacher at the Cannon-McMillan School District, died at 3 p.m. Cambria County Coroner Dennis Kwiatkowski said Magyar was taken to Greenlee Funeral Home, 619 Main St., Bentleyville. Funeral arrangements are pending.

After the accident, Scouts were given the option to go home. Most stayed, Mazzuca said, with "much hope that Jack would recover."

When they learned Magyar had died, it "made the mood much more somber," he said, "but they were resolved to complete the program. They've done that admirably, and I'm just so proud."

Mazzuca described Magyar as a rotund man with a gray Hemingway beard, a big smile, a strong handshake and calming sense of humor.

"He had a way of disarming you," Mazzuca said. "He was jolly fellow, and made you feel good to be around him."

Magyar was involved in scouting for more than 20 years. He designed the weeklong program at Twin Echo Park in addition to his regular duties as a scoutmaster in Washington County.

He was a master, Mazzuca said, at integrating the character-building goals of the Boy Scouts with a sense of adventure.

"There are grown men today who benefited from his leadership when they were boys," Mazzuca said. "He was a scoutmaster for hundreds of kids."

Staff writer Bill Heltzel contributed to this report.

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