Woman dies in Birch Hollow rappelling accident

Utah Department of Public Safety Helicopter used in the retrieval of the repelling accident victim's body, Kane County, Aug. 19, 2013 | Photo Courtesy of Kane County Emergency Services, St. George News

KANE COUNTY A rappelling accident resulted the death of a 19-year-old woman at Birch Hollow Monday.

Kane County Emergency Services reported Monday that Shelby Collette Christensen, 19, of South Jordan, had fallen 120 feet while rappelling in Birth Hollow around 9:30 a.m. A park ranger hiked into the area where Christensen and her group had been rappelling and verified she had passed away due to injuries sustained from her fall.

According to a statement from KCES, Christensen’s companions had rappelled to the bottom of the ledge and were waiting for her.

It appears that as Shelby began her descent, she got her hand trapped between the rope and rock ledge and let go,” the KCES statement reads.

Christensen’s body was retrieved with the aid of a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter stationed in Cedar City.

Birch Hollow is a popular rappelling destination with several rappels and several miles of hiking. The canyon is located about six miles north of state Route 9, east of Zion National Park, and is accessed by the Northfork road.

This is the third rappelling-related accident in Birch Hollow this summer. The first two happened one day apart at different rappel locations in the canyon. Both resulted in injuries and required assistance of a joint technical rescue team from Kane County Search and Rescue, Zion National Park, and the Bureau of Land Management, to raise the individuals to an area where they could be removed from the canyon by helicopter.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Utah Department of Public Safety Helicopter used in the retrieval of the repelling accident victim's body, Kane County, Aug. 19, 2013 | Photo Courtesy of Kane County Emergency Services, St. George News
Utah Department of Public Safety Helicopter used in the retrieval of the repelling accident victim’s body, Kane County, Aug. 19, 2013 | Photo Courtesy of Kane County Emergency Services, St. George News

 

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3 Comments

  • philiplo August 20, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Tragic. And the third this summer? Is there something inherently difficult about this particular route?
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    (Note: Your first paragraph says, “repelling in Birth Hollow.” I believe she was “rappelling in Birch Hollow.”)

  • Mary August 20, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Such a terrible accident. My thoughts are with her family.

  • Bretticus August 20, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    When I used to go rappelling with friends (back in college) we ALWAYS had someone holding the rope at the bottom “on belay” to pull slack and stop the accent. Not sure what happened in this case but if this poor young woman simply let go of the rope with her guide hand (which the inexperienced will do) we would have been able to hold her there until we could either get another rope and someone to help, etc.

    Very tragic. I wonder how many of these accidents could have been avoided if those involved were practicing basic safety. Then again, I don’t know the details. Just seems odd.

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