Female UMaine student, 22, dies after fall at Acadia

Posted July 29, 2012, at 6:40 a.m.
Last modified July 30, 2012, at 11:25 a.m.
Rescuers work Saturday to carry a 22-year-old woman to the top of Champlain Mountain after she fell while hiking the Precipice Trail. She was taken by helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, where she later died.
National Park Service
Rescuers work Saturday to carry a 22-year-old woman to the top of Champlain Mountain after she fell while hiking the Precipice Trail. She was taken by helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, where she later died.

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BAR HARBOR, Maine — A 22-year-old New Hampshire woman who was a student at the University of Maine died Saturday after a fall from the Precipice Trail on Champlain Mountain in Acadia National Park.

Shirley Ladd, a senior at UMaine, fell about 60 feet and suffered multiple injuries, according to a statement issued by park rangers.

Ladd, who was hiking with one companion, fell at about 11 a.m. She was pronounced dead at 5:07 p.m. at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

Park Ranger Supervisor Richard Rechholtz said Sunday the woman was about three-quarters of the way to the summit and had not yet reached the part of the trail where the cliff becomes more sheer, with multiple metal rungs and ladders that assist hikers. She was on a section of trail that included a switchback, he said, and when she fell, landed on another section of trail below.

“You need to pay attention if you’re going to hike that trail,” Rechholtz said. “It’s one of the most challenging nontechnical trails on the East Coast.” A technical trail is one that requires hikers to use ropes.

Ladd’s hometown was Barnstead, N.H., according to UMaine Public Affairs spokeswoman Margaret Nagle. She was a psychology major with a minor in business administration who worked in the New Balance Student Recreation Center on campus, most recently as a student building manager.

“She was pretty well known on campus,” Nagle said Sunday.

A cellphone call alerted public safety officials to the fall, Rechholtz said. A nurse and a paramedic who were hiking on the trail attended to Ladd.

Rangers, the Mount Desert Island Search and Rescue team, the Bar Harbor Fire Department’s paramedics, Acadia Mountain Guides and LifeFlight of Maine worked to carry the woman to the summit.

Ladd was strapped to a litter and, with a series of anchors and pulleys, was raised 250 vertically to the top of the mountain. The LifeFlight helicopter landed at the Champlain Mountain summit, Rechholtz said, when it was determined that it was easier for rescuers to climb down to the woman rather than climb from the trailhead.

It took almost six hours to get the woman to the helicopter, he said.

The LifeFlight aircraft returned once to Bangor to pick up more medical staff, Rechholtz said, and returned a third time to the summit with more supplies. In all, 39 rescuers helped.

“Our thoughts are with her family, friends and the many people on campus who knew and loved her, and whose lives she touched,” Robert Dana, UMaine vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said Sunday. “As one of our student managers at the fitness center, she was well known for her outgoing personality and customer service. She was always ready with a smile. Shirley was a strong leader among her peers. She will be missed by so many in our community.”

Any student who wants to talk with someone about the death can contact the UMaine Counseling Center at 581-1392, Nagle said. Faculty and staff with similar concerns can contact the Employee Assistance Program at 581-4014.

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