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'Goblin' topplers say they are receiving death threats
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Besides facing possible felony charges for pushing over a "goblin" red rock formation, the Utah Boy Scout leaders responsible for the incident say they are receiving death threats from around the world.

Even national scout headquarters is condemning them and considering punishment.

"I've got over 100 death threats on the Internet already. I've got people all over the world telling me they are going to kill me because I made the decision that lives are more important than this rock staying here a few more hours," said Dave Hall, who filmed scouting partner Glenn Taylor toppling the formation in Goblin Valley State Park as Taylor's son watches and cheers with them.

"I think we made the right decision, but probably the wrong method," Hall said Friday, a day after a video of the toppling went viral and attracted international news media attention. He insists the formation was dangerous and about to fall, but "we take full responsibility for whatever mistake we made, and we're open to whatever that means from the state, from the Boy Scouts' office, etc."

In the day since the event became global news, Hall said he's learned "state parks and national parks are very, very sacred to a lot of people. And that there is a right way and wrong way to handle a dangerous situation in the park. And it is not to take it into your own hands. It is to find someone in authority and let them be the one who does it."

He offered a more detailed explanation of what happened, saying he hopes it shows they are not vandals — even though he knows the video makes it look like they are "guys just out enjoying themselves by destroying stuff" because "you see three jubilant, happy people when this rock gets tipped over."

But he says they took the action because they believed the balanced rock was about to fall, and could hurt people in the park, extra crowded that day (Oct. 11) because the federal shutdown had closed nearby national parks.

He said their cheering came because "it was a huge adrenalin rush seeing a boulder the size of a car being pushed over by one man. It's like fireworks going off. It was like a spontaneous, 'Wow, I can't believe that just happened.'"

Events leading up to the toppling began when Hall and Taylor, leaders of a Varsity Scout team (for boys ages 14 and 15) sponsored by their LDS Church ward in Highland, were playing with eight youth and two other leaders among Goblin Valley rocks. Thousands of other tourists were too, Hall said.

Their teens, he said, "were playing a game called lava. You see who can get farthest in the park leaping from top of rock to top of rock without touching the ground. … We were just meandering through the park talking when we came upon that [balanced-rock] boulder and it budged.

"And right then," Hall added, "two families were coming up the ravine right below it. We're like, 'Oh my gosh, if this budges, moves, it's going to kill all of them.' " The family turned a different way, prompting Hall to think, "They don't even realize how close they came to dying."

He said he and Taylor discussed the situation for 15 minutes and felt "you can just put one hand on it and it's going.

The question was, do we wait for a gust of wind to come up or [have] a kid jump on it to find out when it goes, or do we defuse the problem right now."

While the video does not show the lengthy deliberations, he said, "the summary of our conversation is caught right after the rock came down. What's the very first thing I say? I say a little kid could have walked right here and been crushed to death. This is all about saving lives, one rock at a time."

Among those saying they made the wrong decision is the national headquarters of the Boy Scouts.

"We are shocked and disappointed by this reprehensible behavior. ... The isolated actions of these individuals are absolutely counter to our beliefs and what we teach," said Deron Smith, national spokesman for the Boy Scouts. "For more than a century, the Boy Scouts of America has been a leader in conservation — from stewardship to sustainability. We teach … the principles of 'Leave No Trace.' "

In a written statement he added, "We are reviewing this matter and will take appropriate action." He did not say what sanctions are possible.

The local Boy Scout council — somewhat ironically named the Utah National Parks Council — declined to comment beyond what national headquarters said.

Hall said "we talked to the Boy Scout office, and they are still in the gathering information phase. We're open to anything. We realize we made a mistake, and we're looking to use as much of this as a teaching experience, not only for ourselves but also other scoutmasters and for the Boy Scouts themselves."

Meanwhile, the state investigation is continuing. Fred Hayes, director of Utah State Parks, said Friday his lead investigator "plans to sit down with the guys on the video Monday and do another interview, and then he will work with the county attorney" on whether to file charges, including felonies.

The Emery County Attorney's Office issued a statement Friday saying it will review the case upon completion of the state investigation, "and determine what action to take at that point."

ldavidson@sltrib.com

Ancient formation • Scolded by Boy Scouts, the three insist their actions were meant to save lives.
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