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Four French Scouts Feared Drowned

July 23, 1998

PARIS (AP) _ Seven boy scouts sailing off France’s northwestern coast capsized in rough seas, leaving four dead and a would-be rescuer missing Thursday.

Authorities began an inquiry into why the boys, who were 12 to 16 years old, were not accompanied by an adult. It also was not clear whether the boys, who were from the Paris area, had much experience sailing.

``We know that there was no adult on that boat,″ said Philippe Astruc, a prosecutor in Brittany. ``Those minors, some of whom were 16 years old, did they have the qualifications? ... That’s what I’m trying to determine.″

The search for the scouts apparently began when they failed to return to their camp from their outing Wednesday off Perros-Guirec, on the northwestern end of Brittany.

At the time, winds were gusting up to 40 mph and a warning of rough seas had been posted.

Of the seven boys on board, only three survived, and a man on a pleasure boat who attempted to come to their rescue was missing, French radio reported.

With water temperatures at 52 degrees, his chances of survival were slim. But rescuers continued to search for him Thursday.

France’s main scouting organization expressed its condolences but said the group to which the scouts belonged was not officially affiliated with its association.

French media reports said the group was a breakaway organization close to the Roman Catholic church.

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