A Boy Scout volunteer who serves as a risk manager for a local Council testified Tuesday that before a Camp Warren Levis campsite was allowed to be used, routine inspections showed no signs of tree rot along its perimeter.
In a personal injury trial under way in Madison County, Larry Todoroff also said that an approximate 70 foot tree that fell on adult camper John Gremli’s tent while he was sleeping on July 22, 2010 – and which resulted in his above the right knee amputation - had shown no signs of problems with its leaves, bark or limbs.
After it fell, however, the tree was observed as rotten approximately two feet below its base and five feet above its base, according to testimony.
Todoroff, along with John Gremli and his wife Brenda Gremli took the witness stand in Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder’s court in a case against the Lewis & Clark Council which operates the Godfrey campsite and the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
The Gremlis claim the defendants failed to monitor the safety of the campsite and to remove dead and dying trees that were hazards.
Gremli, 54, is fitted with a prosthetic device and walked with a cane slowly and with a severe limp to and from the stand.
Under questioning from defense attorney Bradley Hansmann of St. Louis, Todoroff said he is a former Alton High School coach and principal who has been with the BSA organization continuously for 62 years, at first as a Scout at age 8.
He said the job of the Council’s risk management committee on which he serves is to make sure that BSA safety standards are adhered to. “Highly specialized” teams of volunteers, usually veteran Scouts with professional skills, inspect sites to be sure that “detriments” are taken care of, he said. Sites are “double checked” in post- and pre-camping inspections for problems, he said.
Plaintiff’s attorney Robert Gregory of East Alton, tore into Todoroff’s testimony saying that a safety inspection conducted before the fallen tree incident was not strictly adhered to. He displayed on a screen a copy of a report which stated what type of experts are required to conduct inspections, and said that not all of those experts, such as public health and medical personnel, signed off on a report preceding Gremli’s injury.
Brenda Gremli testified that her husband has had to undergo multiple surgeries and extensive rehabilitation, and that despite his limited mobility and the problems created by that, he remains “positive, upbeat.”
“That has made that part of my life easier,” she said.
She also said she is concerned about her husband’s long term health care. “What will happen at age 64, 74? Will he be wheelchair bound?”
In their suit, the Gremlis seek in excess of $150,000 in damages.
Madison County case number 11-L-021.