Vacationer, 41, Dies At Elk River Falls

12:43 PM, May 31, 2010   |    comments
Elk River Falls
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Avery County, NC -- A man who was killed when he fell 50 feet down Elk River Falls has been identified as Andrew Shelley, 41, of Wake County.

Avery County emergency responders located Shelley's body Sunday. He had missing since falling on Saturday.

The victim was in the area on vacation, authorities said.

Authorities received a report of a possible drowning at Elk River Falls on Saturday afternoon. Witnesses say the man was at the top of the falls and either jumped or fell while looking over the edge.

In a separate incident, Jackson County rescuers responded late Sunday to a report of injuries sustained by a man and woman who fell at Upper Whitewater Falls near Cashiers.

Authorites said a 38-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man were next to the falls when they slipped and fell.

The woman injured her knee and the man had a possible head injury. They were taken to Oconee Memorial Hospital in Seneca, S.C.

The falls cascade down 411 feet and are the tallest falls east of the Rocky Mountains.

The death at Elk River Falls was the second in three years.

In 2007, a 16-year-old Tennessee boy drowned at the base of the falls while swimming after he was pulled under by strong currents.

Following the teen's death, Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye said he wanted to restrict swimming at the falls. Frye told a Boone newspaper that he knew of eight people who had died there over the years.

People swimming at the falls and local rescue divers tried unsuccessfully to locate the man on Saturday, but search efforts were temporarily suspended because of late afternoon thunderstorms. Rescuers found his body at 3:01 p.m. Sunday, according to an Avery County dispatcher.

The falls are in Pisgah National Forest near the town of Elk Park and are also known as Big Falls. Some daredevils who have jumped from the top have posted videos on the Internet with titles like "Near death accident at Elk River Falls."

Investigators with the Avery County Sheriff's Office were not immediately available for comment Sunday.

At least a dozen people have died in waterfall-related accidents in Western North Carolina since 2001.

Last July, a 14-year-old boy fell from the top of a waterfall near Brevard, and a 21-year-old woman fell from the top of a waterfall near Highlands. Both survived.

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