A University of Kentucky Student Accidentally Plunges 150 Feet to Her Death During Hike at Red River Gorge

Scenic View of Red River Gorge.
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Gabriella Smith's family told WKRC/WKYT News that she was an experienced hiker, and likely lost her footing and fell.

A 24-year-old medical student from the University of Kentucky plunged 150 feet to her death at the Red River Gorge while she was out hiking, authorities said.

The young woman, who was identified as Gabriella Smith, had gone hiking and never returned home. On Tuesday search crews found the young woman, who had fallen off the cliff in the Auxier Ridge area of the Red River Gorge Geological Area, Powell County Search and Rescue said in a statement. 

After Smith had disappeared on Monday, team members were able to ping her phone and watch to get GPS coordinates, the search group said. A video clip Smith posted on Snapchat before her death helped the rescue group determine the location where she fell, said Powell County Search and Rescue group spokesperson Lisa Johnson said, according to Fox News.

Crews from Wolfe County Search and Rescue team and Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department searched in the Auxier Ridge area of the gorge where Smith body was located, WKRC/WKYT News reported. 

“We did not get the results that we wanted,” the rescue group said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this difficult time.”

Nearly 30 volunteers had come to their aid to help retrieve Smith’s body, according to one of the rescuers. She explained that the fallen trees, muddy conditions and slippery rocks make it extremely hazardous and always cautions others to stay away from the edge, the news station reported. 

Smith's family told WKRC/WKYT News that Smith, who was an experienced hiker, likely lost her footing and accidentally slipped and fell.

“It’s tragic. That’s really the only words I can come up with,” Smith’s father, Randy Smith, told the Daily Caller. 

UnivThe family told the news outlet that she went hiking on the trail to break in her new boots before a trip out west that she was going with friends from school.

Johnson told Fox News it appeared Smith was taking videos near the edge of the cliff and said that on the day she went hiking the area was “very slippery” because of rainfall.

Smith, who was from Alexandria, Virginia, was a second-year medical school student at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. The dean of the medical school, Robert DiPaolo, said that the college community was deeply saddened to hear the tragic news, adding that counseling services were available to the students. 

“Gabby was a kind, devoted student, and we will miss having her on our campus. This is a tragic loss for our college community, especially for our medical students,” DiPaolo said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family during this difficult time.

Smith’s father also said during an interview with WLWT that “it is a reminder as a parent to never pass up that opportunity to talk to your kids and tell them you love them.”

It was the second fall Powell County Search and Rescue crews have responded to at the Red River George in a 24-hour period. On Monday night a man fell nearly 60 feet off a sheer cliff, also in the Auxier Ridge area, and was taken to the University of Kentucky Hospital in Lexington with injuries to his spine and pelvis, CNN reported.

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