The challenges of keeping Palouse Falls safe

The challenges of keeping Palouse Falls safe

PALOUSE FALLS, Wash. -- The man who slipped and fell while hiking at Palouse Falls Thursday afternoon is still missing, and the search for him has been suspended.

He's presumed to have died. It's the second death at the falls in just three weeks.

A mother retraced what she believes are her son’s final steps.

“It's very sad when these things happen,” said Virginia Painter, WA State Parks spokesperson. “And it takes a toll on everyone.”

Responders identified the 25-year-old man who fell into the falls Thursday as Noble Stoneman, a recent WSU graduate.

“There will be accidents and there probably will be more deaths in the future,” Sheriff Jim Raymond said.

Raymond said Stoneman was hiking above the falls when he slipped.

“In an instant, in a twinkling of an eye, your circumstances can change by not being cautious.

Raymond said there is little to no cell or radio service in the canyon--so it's difficult to call for help or backup.

And he said it took nearly four hours for the full team of responders to get to the falls Thursday.

“All of those pieces have to be brought to a remote corner of the county, and so it takes time,” he said.

Washington State Parks leaders said each time an accident happens, they reassess.

“Can we sharpen the message here? Painter asked. “Is there something we need to put there?”

But Painter said they've already put up several warning signs and fences.

“There's no way you can get to those trails without seeing warning signs about the dangers,” she said.

She said it's hard to balance people's right to access public lands and making sure they have the information to keep them safe.

“These are dangerous areas, and we say so,” Painter said. “We hope that people will heed those warnings and make the right decision.”

But she said they can't close the park entirely--it's too big.

“There needs to be personal responsibility,” she said.

And they also can't force people to follow warning signs.

responders have called off their search for Stoneman because of the dangerous water conditions and they have no plans to resume the search at this time.

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