Utah Survival School Where Man Died of Thirst to Allow Water Bottles

A wilderness-survival school is allowing campers to carry a 32-ounce water bottle instead of a smaller cup during a grueling course in southern Utah, a change from last year when a New Jersey man died of dehydration.

"They're allowed to carry them and drink as they go," said Andrew Wright, an attorney for the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, known as BOSS.

Dave Buschow, 29, collapsed and died on the second day of a 28-day expedition in the searing heat of the Utah desert in July 2006.

Participants were given a 24-ounce cup and told to drink water only from natural sources, such as streams, canyon pools or underground springs. But guides didn't find any water for roughly 10 hours.

The U.S. Forest Service, citing Buschow's death, partially suspended the school's use of Dixie National Forest until the school got advice on providing food and water.

The agency lifted the suspension May 25 after the school filed a new operating plan that allows a 32-ounce bottle for "obtaining and transporting water" during the early phase of the field course and two bottles during later stages.

"It certainly was a notable change. ... We received an operating plan that was acceptable," said the Forest Service's Rob Hamilton, who oversees the Colorado-based school's permit.

BOSS' next 28-day course costs $3,215 and starts Sunday in Garfield County, 250 miles south of Salt Lake City.

The survival adventure is designed to test physical and mental toughness. Campers find their own food and water and carry few essentials.

BOSS referred questions to its attorney because of a lawsuit by Buschow's parents, who claim guides were negligent in the hours preceding their son's death.

The Forest Service's "partial suspension was lifted based upon an updated operating plan submitted by BOSS which was prepared with the ongoing advice of industry experts," Wright said in an e-mail.

While drinking from a stream on the morning of his death, Buschow was seen with a bottle and told by instructors to put it away. He became delusional as hours passed in the hot sun and never was told about emergency water carried by guides.

The River Vale, N.J., man died with a guide at his side, less than 100 yards from a pool of water.

Buschow's mother, Patricia Herbert, welcomed the new policy on water bottles.

"To me, it's acknowledging that something very wrong happened last year," she said Tuesday. "If he had been able to take sips along the way, that would have made all the difference."

A wilderness-safety consultant, Deb Ajango of Eagle River, Alaska, suggested BOSS allow campers to ask a guide for water if they've "had enough" and believe a "situation has become dangerous."

It was not known if the school had agreed to adopt that recommendation.

"They incorporated some changes. Some they did not," Hamilton said. "They felt they were contrary to the philosophy of the program — the idea of stretching yourself, so to speak."