American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Lowering Failure—No Belay or Backup, North Carolina, Little Pinnacle, Pilot Mountain State Park

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  • Publication Year: 2008

FALL ON ROCK, LOWERING FAILURE–NO BELAY OR BACKUP

North Carolina, Little Pinnacle, Pilot Mountain State Park

On May 23, a group of 35 Boy Scouts of America leaders were participating in high-angle rescue training at Pilot Mountain State Park.

Their activity took place in the vicinity of Kiss My Ass (5.8) when S. Richter (23), one of the participants, fell approximately 35 feet. His injuries included a compound fracture of the left arm, fracture to both ankles, left wrist and two broken ribs.

According to A. Whitaker, Park Superintendent, Richter was participating as a “victim” in the training. J. Shelton, Surry County Director of Emergency Services, noted that Richter was being lowered when a “rigging system failed.” Evidently, his fall was a result of another participant’s inability to maintain control of the safety equipment.

Richter was carried out in a Stokes Basket and transported to Baptist Hospital In Winston Salem, NC via helicopter.

Analysis

When new skills and techniques are being taught in a training environment, extra measures should be taken to safeguard participants. For example, make sure that “victims” and primary systems are backed up. In this case, Mr. Richter should have been belayed.

One statement that was made by an EMS official was that, “When you do a scenario like this there are chances that something will happen.” We would suggest that this need not be the case.

This accident is similar to one that occurred at Pilot Mountain a couple of years ago during an organized training session by a group practicing rappelling techniques. In that case a novice rappeller (not on belay) lost control, fell, and was seriously injured. (Source: Edited from reports by Barry A. Whitaker, Superintendent, Pilot Mountain State Park;journalnow. com; Thursday, May 24,2007, “Fire & Police Briefs—Scout Instructor Hurt During Training;” and Aram Attarian)

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