Public urged to stay on trails following death of 19-year-old man from Clarenville area
A helicopter hovers over police and fire officials Sunday afternoon during the search for a 19-year-old man from the Clarenville area who fell to his death while hiking on Signal Hill earlier Sunday. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
In light of the weekend’s tragic events, local authorities are pleading with people to exercise caution when using the trails around Signal Hill.
A young man fell to his death at about 12 p.m. Sunday off the national historic site’s North Head Trail.
In a joint news conference Monday the RNC and the St. John’s Regional Fire Department reiterated their long-standing mantra of asking people to stick to the trail systems and to resist the temptation of wandering off the beaten path.
“The issue with the walking trail on Signal Hill is the same with all the trails on the east coast. There’s all kinds of signs up. Everybody recommends that the general public stick to the trails,” said Jack Hickey, deputy chief of the regional fire department.
The area around Signal Hill can be particularly treacherous because it’s open and exposed ground, Hickey added.
RNC Const. Suzanne FitzGerald said events like those on Sunday only highlight the need to take precautions when hiking.
“This is just an incredible tragedy. It’s a very unfortunate incident,” she said.
“If anyone can take anything from it to prevent something like this from happening again (it would be) ... stay on those trails, be aware of your environment and also any impending weather conditions ... and never go hiking alone,” said FitzGerald.
Parks Canada, which administers and maintains Signal Hill, also offered its condolences Monday.
“I was there yesterday (Sunday) and it really is a gut wrenching experience for us, as well. Our condolences go out to the family and friends of this young fella,” said Glenn Keough, with Parks Canada.
“When things like this happen it really is a punch in the gut,” he added.
Keough also asked the public to be aware of the signage around the hill’s trails, which are there for good reason.
But beyond the warnings, authorities had few new details to add to their account of Sunday’s events.
However, FitzGerald did reveal that the deceased man was 19 and from the Clarenville area.
The police will not be releasing any further details, she added.
“We’re not going to be releasing the identity of the deceased male. That’s just for the family members. It’s an incredible tragedy and they’re dealing with a great deal right now, so we’ll leave those details alone,” FitzGerald said.
In total, rescuers spent about eight hours at Signal Hill on Sunday.
The man was first reported to have fallen at 12 p.m. He was walking with a male companion.
A team from the high angle rescue unit was the first over the 350-foot cliff face to look for him but they couldn’t locate him.
A Universal Helicopter was brought in to scan the cliff and potentially lower rescuers down but the wind proved too strong for that manoeuvre. But the chopper crew did spot the man on the rocks below at about 2:30 p.m.
A paramedic was again lowered down the rock face and it was then determined that the man had died.
His family was notified of his death at about 4 p.m.
His body was lowered to the water and carried via small rescue craft to a waiting Canadian Coast Guard vessel and taken to shore.
The RNC major crime unit is continuing to investigate how the man fell over the edge.