Kids Safety Network

Boy Scout Leader Dies, Son Bravely Leads Kids To Safety

A lifelong outdoors man died while leading a group of Boy Scouts on a New Hampshire hiking trail over the weekend, but it was his teenage son’s heroic actions that led the children to safety.


James Norton of Acton, Mass. led a group of 34 boy scouts and chaperones on the 19 Mile Brook Trail in New Hampshire Saturday night. The group from the Boy Scout Troop 1 Acton spent the night in a hut before heading to the Appalachian Mountains the next morning.

While on the trail Sunday, James collapsed, and his son, David Norton, who was on the trail with his father, suspected something went wrong when he heard someone suffered a heart attack higher up on the mountain.

“I know he would’ve wanted me to lead the rest of the Scouts in the medium group down,” David told the Boston Globe. “And make sure they got there OK. It was really icy and probably dangerous.”

“He lived for the Scout oath and law,” he said.

His brother Christopher, 20, who is an Eagle Scout, was away in college at the time of the incident.

“This event had matured both my grandsons,” Bettina Norton, James’ mother told the Daily News. “I’m damned glad of all my grandchildren.”

David assumed his father suffered a heart attack and he did.

The 16-year-old led the group of boy scouts through the hike, then immediately dialed his family to deliver the news.

Bettina, 80, who also lives in Acton, remembered her son James as a humble outdoorsman who loved his family and the boy scouts he took under his wings for over 10 years.

“I’m a little stunned,” Bettina said of her son’s passing. “He was very bright, stubborn headed, and a great nature lover, somebody who learned very early quickly of the discipline and loyalty in life.”

She described James with a boss type of attitude, but it was only because he wanted to teach his scouts the lessons of the trail and nature.

He made sure the kids didn’t get hurt,” Bettina reassured.

When Bettina found out her son died Sunday morning, she immediately rushed to Pinkham Notch, the headquarters for New England hikers, from her home.

“I drove like a maniac,” Bettina said, adding that she learned the details of James’ death on the way up. “He fell and hit his head. It was a heart attack.”

Upon her arrival at Pinkham Notch, about four or five members and a chaplain greeted her and her family with condolences, she said.

As for her grandsons, Bettina is certain they will carry on James’ legacy of conserving the wilderness and taking care of the family’s property the way he did.

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