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Thursday, May 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Grieving Mom Sues Camp for Son’s Death

WEST JORDAN, Utah (CN) - The mother of a 15-year-old boy who died at a youth wilderness camp has sued Alternative Youth Adventures of Colorado, its medical director and the private and public agencies that ran the camp. She claims "abuse was chronic" at the camp, and that the state had previously cited it for denying children medical care.

Dawn Boyd Woodson says her late son, Caleb Jensen, was susceptible to infections from early childhood. She says his medical history was known to his case workers at the Utah Division of Juvenile Justice Services and Utah Division of Child and Family Services when the state's juvenile justice system sent him to the remote wilderness camp in 2007.

At the camp, operated by Alternative Youth Adventures (AYA) in Montrose County, in southwestern Colorado, she says her son was "forced to hike great distances at high elevations, often without water." She says camp staff took away his shoes "to prevent his escape," and he suffered cuts and bruises to his feet and legs.

After he contracted a staphylococcus infection, she says, camp staff failed to provide him with medical care for days despite his obvious symptoms. And she says that as his health deteriorated he was left "without proper shelter and protection from the elements ... his only shelter was a squalid sleeping bag soaked with his own body waste."

She claims that "Despite observable symptoms that made untrained children concerned for Caleb's health and safety, the camp's poorly trained, incompetent and abusive staff failed to treat Caleb's life-threatening infection, and even failed to take his vital signs because they thought Caleb was faking his symptoms. The boot camp staff had been trained to disregard and downplay children's health complaints. ...

"On May 2, 2007, 35 days after arriving at the camp, Caleb's body, ravaged with infection and covered in his own wastes, could no longer function and he died. He was 15 years old.

"Caleb was not, however, the first child in the camp's custody to be abused and deprived of necessary care," according to the complaint. "Utah's Department of Human Services had previously imposed 'corrective action' on the camp's operators for failing to properly assess a child's injuries, failing to provide necessary medical care, and allowing the child to suffer. Other children who preceded Caleb at Alternative Youth Adventures were denied necessary medical care. At Alternative Youth Adventures, abuse was chronic."

Woodson accuses the AYA, Dr. Keith R. Hooker, Community Education Centers Inc., Education and Health Centers of America Inc., and about a dozen other people of wrongful death, gross negligence, battery, assault and inflicting emotional distress.

She is represented in Salt Lake County Court by Thomas Boyle with Clyde Snow & Sessions of Salt Lake City.

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