Warnings issued following hiking death

Colin MacLean
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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.




Organizations: Regional Fire Department, Parks Canada, Canadian Coast Guard

Geographic location: Signal Hill, Clarenville

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Recent comments

  • Elizabeth
    November 09, 2011 - 17:59

    It's a tragedy for sure but accidents happen. There are no guarantees. All over the world people hike trails and hills and mountains that nobody maintains or fences or makes safe and they are responsible to keep themselves safe...what makes this place any different? Stop blaming everyone else and expecting the government or whoever to take care of you. Really! And come on, who really cares about the time issue...is that all you took from this article...some people will argue over anything. Get a life...but remember to be responsible and take care of it!

  • Kat
    November 09, 2011 - 00:32

    This is such a horrible tragedy and my thoughts and prayers go out to this young man's family. It sounds like these young men were off the main trail and probably taking foolish risks. For those of us who use the trail often and do use caution and follow good sense, I would hate to see the trails closed.

  • wout from nl
    November 08, 2011 - 19:38

    The trails are not safe anyway, (but I love it), it remains a responsibility to yourself every time at every step to ask, is it safe or not. I often hike alone and thats good to do, but keep asking yourself, whats the safe way .. it would be good to teach this in school Already, com is Canada's best and most beautiful hike provence. my condolences, its a terrible tragedy indeed.

  • Charlie
    November 08, 2011 - 19:27

    For the love of all that is nothing more than common since. Life is all about staying on the beaten path. Time in this matter is irrelevant (12 noon or 12 midnight) this man is dead simply because he chose not to follow the beaten path He took a chance. Sadly he failed in his attempt t. I too, would like to extend my sincere condolences to the family of this boy. I lost a son through a tragic accident 15 years ago and can totally understand what his parents are going through at this time. My son walked onto a frozen pond and fell through thin ice and drowned. Because of this should we not drain all ponds? Putting up fences will do nothing…they will always want to know what is happing on the other side of that fence. What we need to do is put up fences in the minds of our young people and try to get it through their heads that they need to use discretion in the choices they make in life.

  • John Smith
    November 08, 2011 - 14:28

    A terrible tragedy indeed. However,we can't close off every trail and put up fences everywhere. As long as people stick to the main trails and are always aware of possible dangers,everything should be fine. Simply use discretion.Hundreds of thousands of people walk those trails every year and this kind of incident is very rare.

  • Ruby
    November 08, 2011 - 12:05

    My sincere condolences on this time. may God be with you and comfort you in your pain.

  • D
    November 08, 2011 - 10:35

    Not sure what you mean by there being "no such thing" as 12:00 PM or AM? That doesn't even make sense....You'd obviously know when it was based on PM or AM. Either way this is pretty ridiculous. How many people have falled off of these trails now? Something more has got to be done. I've walked these trails and stayed on the trail and have been frightened to fall a couple of times, there's really no need.

    • VH
      November 08, 2011 - 15:58

      It is actually improper to use "a.m." and "p.m." when referring to 12:00. The abbreviation a.m. stands for ante meridiem or before noon and p.m. stands for post meridiem or after noon. Since noon is neither after noon nor before noon, and midnight can equally be twelve hours before and after noon, neither abbreviation is correct.

    • Steve
      November 08, 2011 - 19:30

      AP style calls for using noon and midnight not a.m. and p.m.

  • Bibbie from NL.
    November 08, 2011 - 08:15

    This is a terrible tragedy and the family will need a lot of community support. I would just like to make another comment. When using 12:00 O'clock, could you please use noon. There is no such thing as 12:00 P.M. or 12:00 A.M. It is either noon or midnight. I would be under the impression that journalists would be aware of this.

    • Mount Pearl resident
      November 08, 2011 - 17:39

      when you set your alarm clock, does is not specify AM or PM. Mine does and when its 12:oo AM its midnight. Just saying..., it doesn't matter what time of the day it was, a young man lost his life there on sunday.

  • Leah
    November 08, 2011 - 07:56

    Another unnecessary tragedy. My heart aches for the loss of this young man and for his family and close friends. Praying you feel God's love and comfort at this extreme difficult time and in the months to come.

  • kevin in paradise
    November 08, 2011 - 07:20

    your headline reading saying....police urged people to stay on the trails is totally bad advice, especially this time of year........police should have said...stay OFF the dam trails ......why,,,,BECAUSE,,,,snow is ,,SLIPPERY,,ice is SLIPPERY,, and the CHEAP government officials or whover is in charge of promoting these dangerious trails are to gdam cheap to put up a fence to prevent this type of accident from happening... again ,,,,,,whats to stop some small child this summer when they are walking the trail and break-away from mommy or daddys hand, running all out and tumbleing down the side of of this death trap,,,''beautiful secure safe trail isnt it''

    • Sherry
      November 08, 2011 - 10:59

      I agree this is a terrible tragedy, but it cannot be blamed on ice, slippery conditions on the trailway itself- anyone who's hiked the trail can see the location is nowhere near the actual trail. The trail IS safe, the cliffs are not- hence the many signs posted telling you to stay on the trail. its a nature walk- known for its scenery- fences will do nothing but ugly it up. its about using caution, staying to the trail way, and about using your own judgement. if your concerned your children will break away, don't take them on the trail. it's not the governments responsibility if you don't heed to the warning signs posted- thats like blaming the government if your get in a car wreak going well over the speed limit- the signs are there- its your responsibility to follow them.