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Iowa Teen Wandered Away From Family to Do ‘Free Climb’ on Rocks. He Died After Falling at Least 75 Feet

Melissa Baldwin/Facebook

An Iowa family’s vacation turned tragic after a 13-year-old boy lost his life in a climbing accident.

The incident occurred on Sunday when the teen, Elijah Baldwin, was visiting Snow Canyon State Park in Utah with his mother and two siblings, according to ABC News.

Park officials said the mom and children were hiking on a trail when Baldwin decided to venture off to climb by himself in a more advanced area, out of his mother’s sight.

Eugene Swalberg, a spokesperson for Utah State Parks, told KMA Land that the boy went up a rock face without gear:

“The young man was free climbing — meaning he did not have the use of safety equipment, such as ropes, and harnesses, and a helmet, and such.”

The boy made it to the top of the rock structure but had difficulties getting down. At some point in his descent, Baldwin fell 75 to 100 feet down to the ground.

Regan Wilson with Utah State Parks told ABC News that the teen called out to his family:

“They could hear him yelling, saying that he needed some help.”

However, Baldwin was unable to survive his injuries. The 13-year-old was declared dead at the scene.

The teen’s aunt, Melissa Baldwin, wrote on Facebook that he was a kind person who made everyone “feel important.” She hopes others will follow his example in order to honor his memory.

Words cannot express the love we have for this beautiful boy. I am grateful to have known and loved Elijah James and to…

Posted by Melissa Baldwin on Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Following the boy’s passing, Utah State Parks said in a statement encouraging park visitors to take safety precautions while climbing and hiking:

Our sympathy’s go out to his family at this very difficult time. Utah State Parks encourages visitors of all ages and abilities to enjoy the wonderful natural environment present in our parks. We also encourage them to take necessary precautions and to be familiar with their surroundings to help ensure a safe and enjoyable outing.

The boy’s family said he loved to climb, though it’s unclear if he often did so without safety equipment.

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