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Woman Dies in Utah Slot Canyon

Discussion in 'Accidents and Near Misses' started by Ram, Feb 18, 2020.

  1. Ram

    Ram

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    Hard to figure out. Seems like contradictory info. Very sad. Be careful out there.
    R



    Woman Dies After Free-Falling During Utah Slot Canyon Rappel
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    By Josh Ellis, KSL TV
    February 18, 2020 at 4:24 pm
    [​IMG]
    A 33-year-old Washington D.C. woman died after falling while rappelling in a slot canyon Tuesday morning. (Wayne County Sheriff's Office)
    HANKSVILLE, Utah – A 33-year-old woman died after falling 40 feet while rappelling in a slot canyon, according to officials with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.

    Police said Fiona, from Washington D.C., was rappelling at Angel Point Cove Canyon Tuesday morning. The canyon is located a few miles outside of Hanksville, Utah, which is about 65 miles west of Moab.

    Witnesses told police Heckscher slid 20 feet while coming out of the slot canyon, then fell 40 feet to the bottom of the canyon.

    Wayne County Sheriff’s Office deputies and search and rescue responded to the scene, along with Classic Helicopter from Moab.

    Authorities said Fiona’s friends attempted life-resuscitating measures but Fiona did not survive the fall.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2020
    Austin Farnworth likes this.
  2. rick t

    rick t

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    tragic. lots of conflicting information in the reports, hopefully we will learn exactly what happened.
  3. Helo-ops

    Helo-ops

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    Thought I would share this link it is a live account of the accident from the three guys that where there with her. https://open.spotify.com/episode/30SHNubAmn4fqzTdkJOkgQ?si=oGp4fGHuRfCzwHOqSqBmMw

    Here is a short synopsis: Fiona was the LAPAR on the trip with her three partners.They had already cleared the rappel. Fiona threw the bag and start to descend all the sudden she slide down out of control. After the accident they concluded she was attached to the biner block side of the system. ( this was all taking from the podcast)

    Very sad accident. Just a reminder to be vigilant
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2020
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  4. Sutitan

    Sutitan

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    I listened to the podcast today as well. One key thing to mention was that it wasn't a simple case of rappelling on the wrong end of the block. The retrieval side of the rope was seemingly wedged into the rock. The people who came down earlier identified this issue and relayed it up to her (potential for stuck rope on retrieval). Their assumption was that she weighted the retrieval side, and since it was wedged into the rock, it held her weight until it she was further down on rappel and it became unwedged/slipped.

    Tragic story all around. I appreciate her group sharing the story, as difficult as it sounded.
    Helo-ops likes this.
  5. townsend

    townsend

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    I recognize the case is complicated by the rope being stuck. But in general . . .

    I'm sure this has been thought of, but whenever one sets up a single strand rappel with a biner block, even if the person rappels off of the "wrong" side (the pull side), wouldn't a simple fireman's belay (on the rappel strand of the rope) prevent the errant rappeler from injury?

    If so, then for this rappel set up, the other members of the canyoneering party should always provide a fireman's belay, esp. for LAPAR, because that person doesn't have the benefit of another canyoneer at the top of the rappel double checking the set up.
  6. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Yes, but... A normal bottom belay involves holding it with one's hands, and applying 20 lbs of force if needed. To provide a ground anchor, the rope would need to be through a device to hole (say) 60% of the rappellers weight.

    Tom
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  7. Ram

    Ram

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    Pretty powerful......Being vigilant for sure. When we do so many repetitions of tasks that one can't afford to mess up. I mean how many of us don't have moments where they came close to being "carelessed" to injury or death? A bunch for me and a bunch all around me too, over the many years. Exposure to risk matters. Numbers matter

    The podcast and the story of the groups arc, gaining substantial experience sounds like dozens of others and their journey.

    She looks familiar. Have I met her? Her partners? They mention FreezeFest in the podcast. Was I around a campfire with them? How many of you knew these folks?

    Shortly after the accident, back when it didn't feel as "close" as it does now, one of the first responders made this comment to me...."They had all the right equipment, pads, armor, everything. All of it looked in good shape but all of it was well used and worn in the right places. They spoke the same language, with depth of experience. I came away thinking...They are us!!!" They are. Be careful out there everyone!
    Ram
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2020
  8. Ram

    Ram

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    People often have so many sides and stories. Jenny found this. Hopefully the link will show 16:07- 19:07, as Jenny sent it to me
  9. Michael Eastern

    Michael Eastern

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    Ram,
    Yes. You spoke to her around the campfire. We all really enjoyed meeting you and talked a lot about meeting all of you at freeze fest.



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Ram - thanks!
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2020
    Ram likes this.
  10. Tirrus

    Tirrus Rope rider.

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    This incident hit home for me and the folks I canyon with, so we started adopting this technique as part of the LAPAR process for a carabiner block.

    We always provide a fireman, but on a carabiner block, have started having the last fireman belay rig the rappel strand through their device to act as a meat anchor in the event of inadvertently attaching to the wrong side. It takes very little effort or time.

    LAPAR biner block.JPG

    I'm sorry to all those who were involved in this tragedy, and I hope the community can continue to learn and grow together to help mitigate and manage the risks in this dangerous sport.
    Yellow Dart, Sutitan and Ram like this.
  11. 2065toyota

    2065toyota

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    Our best practice is that the last person down is who throws / lowers / carries the pull rope down. There is no reason to already have the pull rope deployed giving anyone the chance to rap off the pull side and it keeps it out of the way for every other person going down
  12. Sutitan

    Sutitan

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    Which is what she did as well, right?

    Im not familiar with this canyon, but they made it seem as if rappelling down with the rope bag could have been tricky, so it was tossed (although someone told me elsewhere that it definitely is possible to rappel with a the rope bag on this particular rappel). im not sure why she wasn't clipped into the rappel strand before tossing down, but ive been in situations where there is a small down climb before getting on rappel.

    This instance doesn't seem like the run-of-the-mill "rappel on the wrong side of the biner block" case. They did what people suggest as being safe-guards against rappelling on the wrong end, but due to some unique circumstances in this canyon, they ended up in trouble.
  13. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Lots of ways to skin that cat... and lots of ways to fail trying to skin that cat. I agree. Kinda whacky some of the suggestions people claim "solve" the problem. Yes AND No.

    Tom
  14. rick t

    rick t

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    there is no such thing as a "run of the mill clipped into the wrong side of the biner block" case. It is a huge, basic, and usually terminal error.
    Kuenn likes this.
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