RAPPEL FAILURE-ANCHOR CAME AWAY, INADEQUATE PROTECTION
New Jersey, Mount Tammany, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Steve Raible (22) fell about 120 feet to his death while rappelling from a route on Mount Raible and climbing partner Todd Garcia had completed a technical climb of “Double Overhang” (5.8) and were in the process of rappelling from the top when the accident occurred at 7:15 p.m. According to Garcia, Raible was rappelling on a double-rope, utilizing a sling on a resident rappel station. Garcia told NPS investigators that Raible had descended about 15 feet when the anchor failed, causing him to fall to the ground. Garcia descended and checked Raible, but could not detect either a pulse or breath.
Garcia then descended to a scree slope and then to a nearby highway where he flagged down a passing motorist. The motorist used his cell phone to make a 911 call. A state trooper and local fire and EMS reached the scene at 8:20 p.m. They found that Raible had suffered extensive and severe traumatic injuries and had no pulse or respirations. A carry-out of the victim’s body was completed after midnight by the Park’s high-angle rescue team and a township search and rescue squad.
The fixed rappel station, located in the middle of the cliff consisted of resident webbing threaded through a crack and around a block. Garcia and Raible examined and tested the webbing, judging it to be safe. No back-up was used.
It is noteworthy to say that the webbing held Raible’s full body weight as he rapelled 15 feet down the face; therefore, no amount of testing could have produced the failure of the webbing.
ALWAYS back up resident rappel stations! In this case, it was not possible to thread new webbing through the existing crack, but a backup using our gear should have been used. (Source: From a report by Todd Garcia)