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Archive for Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Bluff-jumping accidents raise questions of safety

Kansan hurt, Oklahoman killed at Table Rock Lake

July 6, 2005

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— Two accidents over the weekend involving people falling from the bluffs surrounding Table Rock Lake have lake officials checking to see whether they should post additional warnings.

But with 857 miles of shoreline and at least one of the accidents possibly involving alcohol, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said there is only so much it can do.

"It's just not possible to sign all the locations not to prevent people from climbing on those bluffs," said Ken Foersterling, operations manager for the Table Rock Lake corps project office.

The body of Michael Baker, 33, or Vinita, Okla., was found Sunday morning, apparently after he fell 25 feet into the lake.

His mother, Pauline King of Vinita, said he was an experienced hiker and rock climber but may have been intoxicated and fighting with a companion before heading off into the woods the night before.

Foersterling said his office would review whether the spot Baker fell from needs additional signs or fences.

"If corrective action needs to be taken, we will darn sure do it," he said, adding that the bluff was separated from Baker's campsite by 100 feet of thick brush. "At this particular location, it would appear to me that it would have required exceptional effort to get to the cliff. I don't think under normal conditions, someone in full command probably would have had an accident there."

Also on Sunday, Joshua Cook, 22, of Olathe, Kan., was seriously injured when he fell 20 feet from a bluff he was climbing, hitting rocks at the bottom and falling into the water. Cook was airlifted to St. John's Hospital in Springfield, where he was in fair condition Tuesday, hospital officials said.

There is no state law preventing bluff jumping, said Missouri Water Patrol spokesman Sgt. Ralph Bledsoe.

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