Wednesday, 21 Oct 2020

Rock climber plummets to death after huge boulder slices rope

A Massachusetts man plummeted 150 feet to his death from a New Hampshire cliff when a massive falling rock sliced through his climbing rope, authorities said.

Benjamin Kessel, 34, of Somerville, died late Sunday afternoon while climbing Cannon Cliff in Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire, where a “rock the size of refrigerator” somehow became dislodged above his route, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department said Tuesday.

“The rock then slid over the climbing rope, severing it and knocking the climber approximately 150 feet down the cliff before becoming lodged in small spruce trees,” the agency said in a statement.

Rescue crews and a member of Kessel’s climbing party located his body while rappelling down the cliff about 90 minutes after the fall.

The recovery effort was then postponed due to the waning daylight and dropping temperatures until early Monday — when his body was ultimately retrieved, authorities said.

About 30 people in all took part in the rescue and recovery mission, Kessel’s relatives told the Boston Globe. His climbing partner, who was not hurt, called 911 after the fall, the newspaper reports.

Kessel, who was a control systems engineer at Ivenix in North Andover, was an “avid rock climber” who traveled throughout the world, his uncle said.

“He was obviously running circles around in the outdoors field, but when he was with his uncles and his aunts and his mother … he would always be very happy to stay back with is, not run ahead, and be very patient,” Martin Kessel, 71, told the Globe. “Just loved to be with us and have the experience together.”

Beverly Rich, Kessel’s aunt, said his family was “immensely grateful” for the rescuers who recovered his body. He regularly traveled solo but paired up with other climbers because it’s safer to climb in pairs, Rich said.

“He was very meticulous about his safety,” Rich, 68, continued. “He had the best equipment and was always very, very careful. Unfortunately, there’s nothing he could have done to prevent what happened.”

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