It has been some time since Bruce Williams was in the Boy Scouts, but he never forgot the survival skills he learned. When he got lost in the woods for two days recently during a heat wave, they might just have saved his life.
The 29-year-old, who was an Eagle Scout, has autism spectrum disorder, and has difficulty communicating, according to the Times-Union of Albany. He also has weak peripheral vision, and motor dysfunction. He was camping with his family in New York’s Adirondack foothills when he decided to go for a swim around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 30.
Temperatures rose quickly, climbing into the 90s, and when he didn’t return, his family was concerned.
“He normally goes down to one of the bridges to take a quick dip,” Bruce’s mother, Janet Williams, told the Times-Union. “We usually let him go by himself, and he’s back within an hour.”
Forest rangers launched a search that evening using four-wheelers and drones to comb the area, but failed to locate him.
Bruce had been looking for the lake, which was through some woodland, but he became disorientated.
“I got lost in the woods for a while,” Bruce told the Times-Union.
Bruce found the lake the following morning, and with temperatures rising, decided to go for a swim to cool off. But he underestimated the strength of the current in the lake, and was carried away from the shore.
Exhausted from swimming, he flipped over on his back, took deep breaths, and floated on the water—a technique he learned in the Boy Scouts.
After more than 24 hours away from his family’s campsite, Bruce was hungry and thirsty. He wasn’t sure of what was safe to eat in the woods, but remembered running water was safer to drink than standing bodies of water.
He managed to keep himself hydrated drinking water from the lake, and as the sun went down, officials prepared to expand their search to find him. By the following morning, a search party of 76 people braved extreme temperatures and humidity to join the search.
Lt. Brian Dubay led the rescue mission that concluded around 4 p.m. July 2 when Bruce was found on a rock near to the side of the lake. Bruce said he felt relief when the rangers found him.
“They came over in the boat and called over to me,” he told ABC 10 Albany. “It was a sign of relief.”
“He knew enough not to eat anything from the forest. He knew to drink water and stay hydrated. He knew to stay visible on that rock. He didn’t panic,” Dubay told the Times-Union.
“So I think some of those skills are innate from that Boy Scout background and training.”
Shortly after his rescue, Bruce was sitting in a foldable chair, chatting with his family, who were happy to have him back.
“It was a happy ending,” Janet said. “You don’t really hear too many happy endings.”