Young man dead after Signal Hill fall

Police call tumble from trail an accident

Colin MacLean
Published on November 7, 2011

It was the news no one standing on Signal Hill wanted to hear on Sunday.

A young man was found dead after falling from a cliff on the famous hill’s North Head Trail.

The news hit everyone waiting there in the biting cold wind, from the man’s family who’d been anxiously looking for news, to the grim-faced emergency personnel who’d gone about their business with careful determination.

“I’d do anything to get him off that cliff,” one officer was overheard saying.

But it was not to be.

The man, whom the RNC have not yet identified, was pronounced dead a short while after searchers found him.

All that was known about him as of press deadline Sunday was that he was in his late teens.

He had been walking on the trail with a second young man when he somehow fell over the side of a cliff next to one of the hill’s busiest walking trails. The RNC is calling the fall an accident but is continuing to investigate.

Police were first called to Signal Hill at about 12 p.m. Other emergency resources were also tapped including the High Angle Rescue Unit from the St. John’s Regional Fire Department, a small fast rescue craft, a Universal helicopter and a coast guard vessel.

Searchers concentrated their efforts on one area, which is where the man’s companion said he was last seen.

Searchers had to contend with not only the steep cliff, but also the long trek to get equipment from the Signal Hill parking lot to the search area. While battling the cold wind they raced against a rapidly setting sun.

The effort was a challenge, but the rescue crews performed admirably, said shift Supt. Derek Chafe with the St. John’s Regional Fire Department.

“He was in a bit of a challenging spot for our team members to locate. They worked extremely hard to extricate him,” said Chafe.

“They went above and beyond to manage this,” he added.

Chafe also offered his regret as to the day’s end.

“We really don’t like these types of results. We prefer to be able to take someone to an ambulance. It’s very unfortunate when we have to do this,” he said.

The man’s body was found about 2:30 p.m. but it took rescuers at least another hour to recover him.

Rescue crews had to lower the man’s body to the water’s edge, get it into a fast rescue craft and then convey it to a waiting coast guard vessel.

The police have notified the man’s next of kin and indicated that more information may be available today.

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