Land of the Arches Rescue

*Name of subject has been removed On Sunday, May 19, 2013 at approximately 10:30 p.m., Wolfe County Search and Rescue Team (WCSART) was dispatched to search for a 25-year-old male subject, missing from Land of the Arches Campground in southwestern Wolfe County. That dispatch was canceled when the missing subject’s friends stated that they believed he had left to meet some other friends. It later became apparent that this assumption was inaccurate. The subject had been taking care of a friend’s dog at the campground that Sunday and hiked with the dog that evening to a waterfall on the campground property. When the dog returned to the campground on Monday, May 20th, without the subject, friends began to look for him. The subject’s t-shirt and the dog’s leash were found near the top of a trail that leads to the base of the falls. WCSART was re-dispatched to look for the missing subject on Tuesday, May 21st, and mounted a search at 1:00 p.m. Based upon the location of the items related to the subject, it was decided to begin the search at the base of the waterfall and clear the cliff-lines and stream bottom area downstream of the waterfall. Upon clearing the downstream area, WCSART began to grid search areas on the ridge above the waterfall. This grid search located the subject’s tablet PC and water bottle near the top of the waterfall. This clue lead to a re-examination of the base of the falls from above and the subject’s body was discovered in a crevasse between two large boulders. The location of the body among the boulders concealed it from the initial search below the waterfall. Based upon the traumatic nature of the subject’s injuries and the positioning of his body, it was apparent that the cause of death was a cliff fall of approximately 130 feet from the top of the waterfall. WCSART conducted a high-angle raise to extract the subject’s body. The high-angle raise was suspended mid-operation due to the arrival of a severe thunderstorm, but resumed a short time later. All rescue operations were completed and all rescuers were clear of the scene by 8:30 p.m. ANALYSIS The need for responsible and safe behavior in proximity of cliff edges was again demonstrated in this tragedy. Do not approach a cliff edge unless you are securely tethered to an anchor. This incident also highlights the importance of informing friends or family of your back country travel plans even if your anticipated trip is of short distance or duration. You should especially inform others of your plans if you are traveling alone. Reported By: Drew Stevens