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Man dies after falling from High Rock

April 15, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • Rescue workers scale treacherous and rocky terrain Monday as they carry the body of a man who fell to his death.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

CASCADE, Md. — A 34-year-old man fell to his death from High Rock in northeastern Washington County on Monday.

Michael Paul Liller of Thurmont, Md., was determined to be dead by medics who descended 100 feet to where he landed, officials on the scene said.

Liller jumped from the rock formation’s peak to a metal grate used by hang gliders at about 4 p.m. He then jumped to another rock, lost his balance and fell, according to Washington County (Md.) Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Daryl Sanders.

About 12 people were at the popular lookout spot when the fall occurred, Sanders said. Some of them called 911, while four boys crawled down the side of the drop-off to reach Liller, he said.

Authorities believe what happened was an accident, Sanders said.
Lt. Mark Knight, also from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, said Liller had three friends with him at High Rock off Pen Mar-High Rock Road.

Emergency responders spent two hours recovering Liller’s body from the forested area. Four people carried a backboard up a sharp incline near the summit as crews with ropes supported them from above.

Leitersburg (Md.) Fire Chief Kirk Mongan said crews, who canceled their initial call for a rescue helicopter, were able to take their time once they determined the victim had died.

“Things slow down when you have a recovery versus a rescue,” Mongan said.

“It’s a matter of treating the body with dignity and (assuring the safety of crews with) the possibility of a 200-foot drop with trees and boulders,” Sanders said.

A medical examiner was on the scene. Sanders said the body will be taken to Baltimore for an autopsy and toxicology reports.

He cautioned about hiking High Rock, saying someone falls every couple of years. Crews also have rescued hang gliders, including one on March 23.

“It’s a beautiful place to come, but it’s awfully dangerous on the rock face,” Sanders said.

Mongan said most of the High Rock fall victims die.

“The chances of surviving are very, very slim,” he said.

A woman committed suicide by jumping from High Rock in 2004 and a man died in 2001 in a similar fall, according to Herald-Mail archives.

Graffiti and effects of weather have made the rocks’ surfaces slippery, Mongan said.

“Respect it because it’s very unforgiving,” he said.

Responding fire departments Monday included Leitersburg and Smithsburg from Maryland and Blue Ridge Summit from Pennsylvania. A special operations unit from the Washington County Department of Emergency Services also responded, as did the Smithsburg Police Department and ambulances from Smithsburg and Blue Ridge Summit.

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