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ZION NATIONAL PARK - Though popular with hikers for its expansive canyon views, the park's Angels Landing trail once again proved deadly last week as two people died in unrelated incidents.
Washington County sheriff's deputies and National Park officials are investigating the Friday death of 53-year-old Barry Goldstein, a Missouri man who was hiking with family members when he fell 1,000 feet off a cliff. An unidentified 60-year-old man died Saturday afternoon from an apparent heart attack while hiking the trail, said park spokesman Tom Haraden.
It remains unclear why Goldstein, who was in good physical condition, fell to his death, Haraden said. Goldstein was hiking in the park around noon when witnesses saw him fall from the trail at a point between Scouts Lookout and the summit of Angels Landing.
"We don't know if he tripped, or was dizzy, or what made him fall," Haraden said. "We'll interview witnesses and ask about his hiking experience, abilities and frame of mind."
The Angels Landing trail is about 4 feet wide in some places, but eventually becomes a knife-edge that drops off 800 feet on one side and 1,200 feet on the other. Hikers can grab onto a chain during the narrowest part of the hike, one of the most popular in Zion, according to Haraden. But a sign at the base of the trail warns, "Falls from cliffs on this trail have resulted in death."
"We feel we are doing pretty much all we can do," Haraden said. "We provide trail, flood and weather information in lots of different locations in the park. We make sure [hikers] are informed. Everybody's safety is their own responsibility."
Park rangers say they discovered Goldstein's body approximately 1,000 feet below Angels Landing, and his remains will be autopsied. Authorities have interviewed several witnesses, including family members who were visiting the park with Goldstein as part of a family reunion, said Stephanie Coots, a Washington County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman.
Judson Dolman, a St. George resident who hikes extensively in the park, described Angels Landing as a trail not for those afraid of heights.
"It's incredible, but can be scary where the trail gets narrow," he said.
Dolman added he once saw a boy on the trail freeze up while holding onto one of a series of chains anchored to the rock. "For a while, he wouldn't go forward or back," he said.
Hurricane resident Lori West, a regular visitor to the park, said local shuttle drivers always warn people about the Angels Landing hike.
"In the end, people have to be responsible for themselves," she said.
The deaths marked two fatalities on Angels Landing in one week. A third death occurred elsewhere in the park on Monday, when 48-year-old Keith Biederman, of Garden Grove, Calif., fell 300 feet as he rappelled in the Emerald Pools area of the park about 10:30 p.m., according to the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
Yet changes at the park, which draws about 2.6 million visitors each year, are unlikely in the wake of the deaths, Haraden said. Trails are marked and parkgoers are encouraged to act cautiously while traversing the area's steep cliffs.
"You can get hurt anywhere," he said. "You can trip on a curb, fall and get hurt badly. National parks are just the great outdoors, but you have to be careful. When you trip on a rock in Angels Landing, you're 800 to 1,400 feet above the ground."
Past Angels Landing deaths
Barry Goldstein is the sixth person to die in a fall from Angels Landing in recent years:
* Jeffery Robert Dwyer, 28, of Sandpoint, Idaho, died in a 150-foot fall in 1989.
* In 1997, a botched rappel led to the death of climber John Christensen, 36, of Provo.
* George Sender, 63, of Illertissen, Germany, fell while hiking in 2000.
* In 2004, Kristoffer Jones, 14, of California, fell during a Boy Scout troop outing. Officials said another Scout had bet Kristoffer to crawl out onto a ledge and scratch his name into the side of a cliff.
* A Las Vegas woman, 29-year-old Bernadette Vandermeer, fell while hiking with her husband.