Camper Fatally Injured

Camper fatally injured in fall in Daniel Boone National Forest
reported by Rick Weber

On Saturday, February 13, 2010, a 28-year old male, Shaun Wilhoite, from Owenton, KY who was camping in the Gorge with friends. The group hiked up to Pebble Beach Around 2:00 PM on Saturday, and the victim started to climb – free solo – up Beachcomber (5.4). He climbed in leather hiking boots, and his friends said he had no rock climbing experience. He topped out and moved over onto the Arrowhead pinnacle, from which he fell about 54 feet headfirst onto the rock-strewn base. Wilhoite suffered massive head trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene by Menifee County Coroner Melody Smallwood. As this incident occurred in Menifee County, the Menifee County Fire Rescue Squad responded and requested mutual aid from the Wolfe County SAR Team in the body recovery.

Often when a person dies or is injured in a fall off a cliff, the news media reports the incident as one involving a “rock climber.” Experienced rock climbers do get injured or die in falls, but far less frequently than non-climbers who, through recklessness or accident fall off the cliffs around this area. Of the 96 deaths recorded in the Daniel Boone National Forest Cumberland Ranger District since 1960, only two were bona fide rock climbers.

In this particular incident, the victim was not a rock climber and was not protected by rock climbing gear commonly employed by rock climbers.