VISALIA, Calif. – A Memorial Day hike ended in tragedy after a man plummeted 500 feet to his death and a woman was severely injured in Sequoia National Park, authorities said Tuesday.
The deadly accident happened on the summit of Mount Russell, near the park's eastern boundary, rangers said. The victim was identified as a 56-year-old man from California.
The man's hiking partner, a 46-year-old California woman, attempted to grab him as he lost his balance. Both tumbled down the mountain's edge. However, the woman was able to break her fall 30 feet down the summit.
The third member of the hiking party declared an emergency using an emergency locator beacon, rangers said. He also called 911 from his cellphone.
At the time of the accident, two rescue teams were already rescuing another unconscious hiker from the Big Five Lakes area, according to a news release.
A Yosemite National Park helicopter was sent to save the hikers. The Yosemite team rescued the woman who was stranded on the ledge and took her to Northern Inyo Hospital. She was later airlifted to a hospital in Reno, Nevada, where she underwent surgery, rangers said.
Rangers confirmed the man had died from the fall. His body was recovered by a team of rangers and taken to a funeral home, park officials said.
The hiker's death was the tragic capstone in a flurry of rescue operations that happened in the park over the holiday weekend, park officials said. Rescue teams responded to eight separate search-and-rescue incidents over the holiday weekend.
Rangers offered the following advice to naturalists returning to the parks after a year spent largely indoors because of the COVID-19 pandemic:
"Over the course of what is expected to be an extraordinarily busy summer in the parks, visitors to the front country and the wilderness alike are strongly urged to prepare carefully for trips, and understand completely that you may need to be self-sufficient in the event of an emergency. There is never any guarantee that rescuers will be able to reach you quickly. Understand your limits, take care of the people in your party and always be prepared to turn back."
This article originally appeared on Visalia Times-Delta: Sequoia National Park hiking accident: California man has deadly fall