Six-year-old girl dies in tumble over cliff in South Dakota

April 2, 2019

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A 6-year-old South Dakota girl fell to her death from a cliff near Rapid City where officials have pushed back against installing signs and railings, despite at least eight other fatal plunges in recent decades.

Pierre kindergartner Sadie White Twin died Sunday at Falling Rock, a popular scenic area off Highway 44, according to the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office.

Officials haven’t provided details about the circumstances surrounding the girl’s death.

Falling Rock’s cliff towers several hundred feet above Rapid Creek, and there have been at least eight prior fatal accidents at the site since 1985, according to the Rapid City Journal ’s archives. The age of victims range from 6 to 50, and three of the deaths were reported to have involved alcohol.

There have also been at least 10 non-fatal falls from the cliff.

The path to the cliff’s edge is situated on public land in the Black Hills National Forest.

Scott Jacobson, the forest’s public affairs officer, declined to comment on the safety issues at Falling Rock.

Pennington County Search and Rescue doesn’t believe that signage, railings or other preventative measures are needed, said Tammy Stadel, an official for the rescue squad. Stadel said Falling Rock isn’t more dangerous than other sites in the Black Hills.

“There’s an inherent risk anytime folks go out and participate in an activity in the wilderness, whether they’re hiking or mountain-biking or just walking along trails,” Stadel said.

Public safety and U.S. Forest Service officials have expressed similar sentiments over the years.

When an 8-year-old boy fell to his death in 2005, the forest’s then-district ranger, Bob Thompson, said signage at the site could make the federal government liable for accidents on federal land that weren’t marked as dangerous.

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