ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — A woman who was severely injured in a Labor Day accident while hiking down Dorr Mountain had ventured off a steep trail when a rock weighing several hundred pounds came loose and crushed her leg, according to Acadia officials.
Park officials on Monday called the accident “horrible” and that they wish the hiker, who has undergone multiple subsequent surgeries on her leg, a full recovery. Park officials have declined to release the woman’s name, but she has been identified by her husband as professional adventure hiker and mountain climber Serenity Coyne, 53, of Boston.
The gruesome injury happened as Coyne stood underneath the large rock, which was lodged between two enormous boulders a few feet off the Dorr Mountain Ladder Trail, according to her husband, Michael Coyne. A photo he took of his wife a few moments before the accident shows her standing in the crevice under the rock, touching the bottom of it with both hands before it fell and crushed her lower left leg.
“It was an ideal place to get a picture,” Michael Coyne said Monday. “The rock was hanging in the cave very very close to the trail, next to it, where she posed for a picture and it came down on both of us.”
He said his wife “gingerly” touched the rock right before it fell. It also struck him as it fell and bruised his back, according to Coyne.
“That rock has been there for a million years and then it decided to release,” he said. “I don’t know why nature does what it does. It looked solid. We are rock climbers so we can assess rocks. We have been doing it for 30 years. She didn’t put any weight on it.”
Coyne said the accident occurred only three or four feet off the trail, but Acadia officials said Monday that Serenity Coyne was approximately 15 feet off the trail when the rock fell on her.
The incident illustrates the risks of venturing off trails, especially on steep terrain, park officials said.
Each of the hundreds of trails in the park is inspected at least once a year by a senior member of the park’s trail staff to make sure it is in good condition, according to Gary Stellpflug, Acadia’s trails chief. He said the rock that crushed her leg had not been moved or positioned by park staff as part of trail maintenance, and was not known to be a potential hazard prior to the accident.
“It was definitely not on a trail or part of a trail,” Stellpflug said. “The trails are pretty well inspected.”
Christie Anastasia and John Kelly, spokespersons for the park, each said Monday that many other park employees are routinely out on the trails, both for work and on personal time, and report whatever hazards they may see, whether it is a unstable rock on a trail or looming over it, or a tree that has fallen across a road or path. Park staff check on all reports they receive of possible hazards, they said, and the park removes those that they agree pose an undue risk to the public.
But there is a certain amount of risk visitors assume when visiting the park, which is why there aren’t railings at the top of every steep cliff, they said. In many places, the park has erected signs encouraging hikers to stay on marked trails, but there is no requirement that they do so.
“The park places the safety of visitors first,” Anastasia said. “That being said, all natural areas pose an element of risk. If you are out in the park and you see something unsafe, please let us know as soon as possible so we can address the issue.”
Coyne and his wife, who have been taking calculated risks as adventure hikers and climbers since they started fundraising for their charity, Expedition Outreach, in 1995, said they plan to return to Acadia.
He said she will climb the mountain with her rescuers as a thank you for their efforts and, Michael Coyne said, “do a little emotional healing.”
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