An Air France pilot was found dead Thursday after plunging 1000 feet to his death while hiking California’s Mount Whitney, the National Park Service said Friday.
The park service identified the victim as Tom Gerbier, 38, of Fontenay-sous-Bois, France, CBS News Sacramento reported. After he failed to report for his return flight Wednesday, an extensive search operation was launched, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
Gerbier’s body was discovered Thursday morning at the bottom of a 1,000-foot cliff in an area known as the Notch, the newspaper reported. (RELATED: Woman Plummets 500 Feet To Her Death At Rocky Mountain National Park, Marking Second Fatality In A Month)
Air France pilot falls 1,000 feet to his death while hiking tallest mountain in contiguous U.S. https://t.co/HJaYrAaYrc
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 21, 2023
Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, rising 14,494 feet and is a difficult but popular hike, CBS reported. Gerbier reportedly took a challenging route to the peak through a steep gully that experiences frequent rock slides and requires more scrambling than hiking, the Chronicle reported.
Search crews “noticed clues that a hiker may have fallen off a cliff” Thursday in an area of the Notch, according to the Chronicle. A National Park Service helicopter was called to the area and “located a motionless hiker” who had fallen about 1,000 feet, the paper reported.
Gerbier’s body was retrieved by helicopter and flown to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office for identification, according to the Chronicle.
“This marks the 2nd fatality for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks this year,” the National Park Service wrote in a statement. “This rescue was made possible through the assistance and collaboration of Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, Inyo Search and Rescue Team, and the climbing community.”
Air France issued a statement that said, “The company offers its most sincere condolences to his family and loved ones,” CBS reported.