American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rappell Error—Fall on Rock, Arizona, Tucson, Papago Buttes

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001


Arizona, Tucson, Papago Buttes

On August 10 at 7:00 pm, Kyle Brown (22) plunged 50 feet off a cliff at Papago Buttes while teaching kids from his church how to rappel.

It took rescue crews about an hour to reach Brown. Fire officials said that Brown’s head injuries suppressed his breathing, and by the time firefighters reached him, he did not have a pulse. He was admitted to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.


Police and fire officials said they were not sure what caused Kyle Brown to fall that night, but they think that Brown was anchored and starting his descent when the accident occurred. Bob Khan, a deputy chief with the Phoenix Fire Department, said they were not sure whether a knot used to support Brown failed or whether he lost his footing.

Rescue crews frequently respond to calls involving the park for stuck or injured rappellers, but this is the first fatal accident there in years. The majority of calls are to Camelback and Squaw Peak, with the rest divided among North Mountain, South Mountain and Papago Buttes. According to Khan, the problem with Papago is that the rock there is not like Squaw Peak or Camelback. It is clay-like, and it is inviting because the rocks are rounded. They are deceivingly high and pretty easy to climb. (Source: From a report in The Arizona Republic by Christina Leonard.)

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