On Sunday, May 5, a Salt Lake City man died of injuries sustained in a 150-foot fall while rope swinging and rappelling in Day Canyon, about seven miles west of U.S. 191 and the Gemini Bridges parking area, according to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.
Adam Jason Weber, 32, was with a group of friends who had spent several days setting up a metal airline cable that was anchored into the canyon walls across a 450-foot span, said Grand County Sheriff’s Lt. Kim Neal. Members of the group took turns rope swinging from the cable then rappelling from the cable to the canyon floor, he said.
Weber and a female companion had just completed a tandem rope swing and Weber was in the process of rigging the rope to rappel down when he fell, Neal said. Both were wearing harnesses similar to those used in rock climbing and rappelling, Neal said.
“In that process something went wrong. Something got unhooked or something and this gentleman fell the rest of the way from the swing to the bottom of the canyon,” Neal said.
Weber’s companion was stranded, suspended above the canyon in her harness, but friends managed to rig a rope and help her rappel down to safety, Neal said.
The accident occurred at 7:11 p.m. Grand County Search and Rescue, Grand County Sheriff’s deputies and emergency medical workers responded to the scene. A Classic Lifeguard medical helicopter from Page, Ariz., and a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter were called in to help with the rescue effort, Neal said.
Weber was still alive when rescue workers reached him, but he died at the scene, Neal said. Officials had initially estimated the distance Weber fell to be approximately 100 feet, but Neal said Tuesday that after revisiting the scene, he appeared to have fallen 150 to 200 feet.
Weber’s body was transported to the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office in Salt Lake City for autopsy. The incident is still under investigation, Neal said.
Two days later, on Tuesday, May 7, a California woman died after falling approximately 20 feet while hiking with her family near Kane Creek in San Juan County. Christina Elizabeth Allen, 19, from San Luis Obispo, Calif., had been hiking in the area with her family since they arrived and set up camp at approximately 6 p.m., according to a report from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office. At about 8 p.m., Allen climbed up and sat on a large sandstone rock that was approximately 15 feet in diameter “to enjoy the view,” according to the news release.
“The face of the rock broke away and began to slide, taking [Allen] and several other rocks with it,” San Juan Sheriff’s investigators said.
Allen fell approximately 20 feet in the slide and sustained severe internal and external injuries to her abdomen and pelvis, according to investigators. Search and rescue personnel from Grand County and San Juan County deputies responded to the accident but Allen died at the scene. Her body was transported to the Spanish Valley Mortuary in Moab, where the family will make arrangements for transportation back to California.
The accident involving Weber occurred on state School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration lands in Day Canyon, but was only a few feet from lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, said Lisa Bryant, assistant manager of the BLM’s Moab field office. Officials with both agencies urged those recreating in the backcountry to be cautious and take extra care, especially while doing “high-adrenalin” activities.
“We typically leave our properties open to the general public for recreational purposes and we don’t categorize recreational purposes at all. It’s just open,” said Bryan Torgerson, resource specialist for SITLA. “I doubt that we will be changing that policy or closing our properties down to certain activities. We would just like to encourage people to be cautious and responsible and to not engage in these high-risk activities and to use extreme caution if they do ... Our heart goes out to the families. It’s just unfortunate and these things don’t have to happen.”
In the past two months four people have died in accidents while recreating in the backcountry near Moab. On March 13, Zachary Taylor, 20, of Moab, died after falling approximately 120 feet while rappelling with friends at Poole Arch in the Pritchett Canyon area southwest of town. On March 24, Kyle Lee Stocking, 22, of West Jordan, died while attempting to rope-swing at Corona Arch, northwest of Moab.