Careful Out There: Deadly Falls, Family Reunions, and Metallica

Your survival and accident report for the week of July 29th to August 5th
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Photo courtesy of Greg Balzer.

Photo courtesy of Greg Balzer.

Falls, lost hikers, animal encounters: Every week, we get reminders that the outdoors can be a dangerous place. Each Monday, we’ll bring you a recap of hiker accidents, losses, and survival triumphs from the preceding week, so you can learn from real-world mishaps and be better prepared for your next outing.

Deadly Fall in Rock Canyon

A Utah man fell to his death while hiking in Rock Canyon, UT, on Tuesday. The hiker was allegedly alone and walking off trail at the time of the incident. A helicopter recovered the man's body from the canyon. Lesson learned: Unroped falls are the leading cause of death in the backcountry, especially with hikers. Beware of loose rock and unstable terrain, especially when hiking off trail.

Rescue in Los Padres National Forest

A hiker and his dog were rescued in Santa Barbara County on Tuesday after failing to return home Sunday night as planned. Wesley Welch and his dog set out on Friday for a 40-mile two-nighter. When they didn't return on Sunday, a family member reported Welch missing. Rescue crews began searching for the hiker early on Monday morning, and found him mid-morning the next day, 38-miles into his planned route. Welch was dehydrated and evacuated to a hospital. Lesson learned: Take extreme caution when backpacking solo. Temperatures continue to be dangerously hot across the country—stay hydrated and factor the heat into your hiking plans. 

Lost Smokies Hiker Found Alive

Kevin Lynch, a 58-year-old New Jersey hiker, was found by rescuers on Wednesday afternoon in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Lynch, who has dementia, had been missing since Saturday. He was not carrying overnight gear. Officials reported that Lynch was alert and responsive at the time of his rescue, and was taken to a nearby medical center to meet his family. Lesson learned: Carry a whistle on your pack to signal for help in case of an emergency. If you do find yourself lost, stay in place so you will be easier to find. 

Fatality in Yosemite National Park

A tourist from Romania fell to his death on a hike to Bridalveil Falls on Wednesday. The man, Lucien Miu, 21, allegedly ignored signs advising hikers to stay on the trail and scrambled toward the base of the waterfall where he slipped on wet rocks. The hiker fell about 20 feet. He was airlifted to El Capitan meadow, where medics pronounced him dead. Two other hikers were injured earlier in the week after slipping on wet rocks. Lesson learned: Always heed posted warnings and stay on designated trails in dangerous terrain. 

Hiker Blasts Metallica to Scare off Cougar

A woman hiking on Vancouver island last week managed to scare off a cougar with a little help from one of her favorite bands. When Dee Gallant, 45, spotted the animal stalking her and her dog, she began to shout at it. When that didn't work, she pulled out her phone and turned the volume up on "Don't Tread on Me." The lion scampered off, and Gallant and her dog safely finished their hike. Lesson learned: Mountain lion encounters are rare, but if you do come face to face with one, make yourself appear large. Speak loudly and firmly to the animal and slowly back away. Do not run, crouch, or turn your back on the animal. And blasting loud music—any kind—won't hurt.  

Hiker's Body Found in Maui

A missing Florida hiker, Craig Michael Pitt, was found dead on Saturday near a waterfall in East Maui. Pitt was reported missing on Friday after having been last seen at the hostel where he was staying. The man was hiking alone, and the cause of death is not immediately known. Lesson learned: Hiking with others increases your safety, especially in tricky terrain. If venturing out alone, consider carrying a personal locator beacon for use in an emergency.