July 30, 2012

Injured hiker dies after heroic rescue in Maine

The 22-year-old UMaine senior fell from the Precipice Trail on Champlain Mountain.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Three dozen rescue workers and the crew of a Lifeflight helicopter that was forced to land on a mountain ledge spent more than five hours Saturday trying to save the life of a University of Maine student.

click image to enlarge

Rescuers use climbing equipment to haul an injured hiker 250 feet up Champlain Mountain in Acadia National Park on Saturday. Shirley Ladd, a student at UMaine, later died of her injuries. She was remembered for her outgoing personality.

Photos courtesy National Park Service

Shirley Ladd

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Despite their heroic efforts, 22-year-old Shirley Ladd of Barnstead, N.H., died from injuries she sustained after falling on a trail on Champlain Mountain in Acadia National Park.

University officials identified Ladd on Sunday as a senior at the university's Orono campus where she was majoring in psychology. She was minoring in business administration. Ladd was most recently employed as a student building manager at the university's New Balance Student Recreation Center.

"Our thoughts are with her family, friends and the many people on campus who knew and loved her, and whose lives she touched," said Robert Dana, UMaine's vice president for student affairs and dean of students, in a statement released Sunday to the university community. "As one of our student managers at the Fitness Center, she was well known for her outgoing personality and customer service. She was always ready with a smile. Shirley was a strong leader among her peers. She will be missed by so many in our community."

A close friend said Ladd had travelled to Bar Harbor last weekend to visit her boyfriend, a recent university graduate.

Her boyfriend was at work when she decided to go hiking with another friend on the Precipice Trail, which leads to the summit of Champlain Mountain.

"Shirley was one of the most caring people I have ever met. And she was so much fun. She made work enjoyable," said her friend, Kaci Stormann, who worked with Ladd at the New Balance Student Recreation Center.

Those familiar with the hiking trails at Acadia say the Precipice Trail is the most challenging trail in the park because hikers must hang onto steel ladder rungs in some parts of the trail.

"If you took away the rungs, it's what I would call a fourth class climb or a technical climb (for experienced rock climbers)," said Jon Tierney, who owns Acadia Mountain Guides in Bar Harbor.

Tierney, who is a former park ranger and member of the Lifeflight helicopter team, said the Precipice Trail is the "most exposed" hiking trail in the park, providing even more challenges than the Beehive Trail near Sand Beach.

But Tierney said the Precipice Trail is a "great climb" for those looking for an adventure.

"There are not many trails like this left in the United States," said Tierney, a former climbing ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park. "Certainly there are hazards but then there are hazards in everything we do in life."

The rescue operation began around 11 a.m. Saturday when park rangers received a 911 call saying that a hiker had fallen on the Precipice Trail, said Richard Rechholtz, the park ranger who directed the rescue operation.

Rechholtz said another ranger, John Murray, was the first rescue worker to reach Ladd on foot -- at about 11:40 a.m.

Murray alerted the park service that Ladd had sustained severe injuries, which triggered a massive rescue effort.

Rechholtz said Ladd had just finished climbing a laddered section of the Precipice Trail and was preparing to ascend another section of ladder rungs when she fell from a rock shelf onto the trail below.

She landed near another hiker, almost hitting the hiker, Rechholtz said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

A helicopter from LifeFlight of Maine landed on a sloped, open ledge on Champlain Mountain in Acadia National Park in order to evacuate an injured hiker Saturday.

Photo by Jon Tierney

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Personnel from the National Park Service, Mount Desert Island Search and Rescue, LifeFlight Of Maine and Acadia Mountain Guides assist in rescuing and giving medical care to Shirley Ladd, who was critically injured Saturday while hiking in Acadia National Park.

Photo by B. Watson/Courtesy of Jon Tierney

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Ropes are visible as rescuers attend Shirley Ladd, a New Hampshire woman who fell 60 feet while hiking a difficult trail in Acadia National Park on Saturday.

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