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Hiker dies in Eaton Canyon; officials warn of dangers

August 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Authorities are warning visitors about safety at Eaton Canyon after one person died and another was injured within a week.

A daring attempt by an untrained and unprepared climber turned to tragedy. Erwin Molina, 21, was attempting to scale a wall at the side of the lower Eaton Canyon waterfall last Sunday. He lost his footing and fell 35 feet.

Witness Erica Parral, 19, described what she saw firsthand.

"The last word he said was the 'S' word. He tried to grab on to a branch and it broke on him," Parral said.

Molina died of his injuries two days later in the hospital. Rescue teams said the incident is one in a surge of recent calls within the year.

"This week alone we have had rescues every day except Tuesday," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Sgt. John Stanley.

Jeff Moran with Altadena Search and Rescue said there has been a 100 percent increase in rescues since 2010.

One reason for the increase may be the economy. A hike is free, but also people are sharing videos of beautiful scenes on social media. They set off on hikes, unaware of the potential hazards involved.

"I actually fell myself because the rocks were really, really slippery," said Parral.

Rescue crews said a common mistake hikers make is wandering off the trail and getting lost. The wrong clothes make matters worse and not being fit for a long climb adds to the problem. Recently an overweight hiker called 911, because he was too tired to walk back.

"It was completely beyond his capabilities and really should never have been there in the first place," said Moran.

Here's a tip if you get lost. If you are in an area where you can get a cellular signal, take a picture with your cellphone. Then, email it to a friend who can then download it to Google Earth. Then, you'll see a thumbtack of your exact location within 200 feet.

Also, your phone's flash can work as a signal. Better still, avoid trouble altogether by researching your trail and learning the risks involved, keeping in mind that it can be much easier to go up than coming down. Also, be prepared by bringing a flashlight and some extra water.


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