Park incidents: Hiker dies in fall at Panther Creek

There have been several deaths at Panther Creek in recent years. In the photo is a slick granite slab where the creek drops vertically into the Kaweah River below. The trail crossing is about 50 feet upstream.

Sequoia National Park rangers received a report on Saturday, February 15, 2020, of an adult male who fell off a rock slab along the Middle Fork Trail in the vicinity of Panther Creek. The Middle Fork trailhead is located two miles east of Hospital Rock via the road to Buckeye Flat Campground (currently closed) in the foothills area of the park; the Panther Creek crossing is three miles from the trailhead.

Looking down on the Kaweah River from the Panther Creek area. The river is inaccessible from this area due to the steep, treacherous terrain.

Bystander CPR was initiated, and the reporting party hiked out to the front country for assistance. A search-and-rescue response was initiated. With the help of CHP H-40 (helicopter), rangers located the subject and found him deceased. CHP H-40 conducted a hoist mission to remove the subject from the scene. Tulare County Sheriff’s Office and Tulare County Fire Department personnel assisted with the recovery. 

The deceased victim has been identified by the Tulare County Coroner as Evan Gillett, 22, of Torrance, Calif. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to his head. The Coroner added that the victim fell into water and had sufficient water in his lungs to drown because his injury prevented him from being able to get out of the water.

Here is Evan Gillett’s obituary.

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Here are the other incidents and events that occurred in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks during Presidents Day Weekend 2020:

Sequoia National Park

Ash Mountain

02/14/2020: Rangers stopped a vehicle for failure to maintain lane. The female passenger had a felony warrant for a drug and probation violation out of Tulare County. Rangers transported the female to the Bob Wiley Detention Center. She was also cited for possessing an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle.

Lodgepole

02/13/2020: Rangers responded to a report of a fire burning along the High Sierra Trail. They located the fire, approximately 30’ x 30’ burning along the forest floor in the Giant Forest. Wildland fire crews were dispatched. The cause is under investigation.

Holiday Weekend Visitation

Ash Mountain Entrance Station had wait times of up to 1 hour, 40 minutes, on Saturday and 1 hour, 20 minutes, on Sunday. Up to 250 cars were waived through Saturday and 105 cars waived through Sunday. Wait times and waiving large amounts of cars was mostly due to the need to expedite entry for emergency vehicles (Saturday; see lead incident above) and holiday weekend increase in visitation.

On Saturday, Feb. 15, there were 998 recreational entries through the Ash Mountain Entrance Station, plus an additional 250 vehicles waived through. Including the waived cars, this represents a 325.9% increase from the equivalent Saturday 2019 and a 4.3% decrease from 2018.

On Sunday, Feb. 16, there were 1,156 recreational entries through Ash Mountain Entrance Station, plus 105 vehicles waived through. Including the waived cars, this represents a 177.8% increase from the equivalent Sunday 2019 and 1.6% decrease from 2018.

On Saturday, Feb. 15, there were 398 recreational entries through Big Stump Entrance Station. This represents a 68.6% increase from the equivalent Saturday 2019 and 17.7% decrease from 2018.

On Sunday, Feb. 16, there were 517 recreational entries through Big Stump Entrance Station. This represents a 221.1% increase from the equivalent Sunday 2019 and 8.6% increase from 2018.

Overall, there were short wait times at the Big Stump Entrance Station throughout the holiday weekend.

Campgrounds: Potwisha Campground in the Sequoia foothills was busy and full over most of the weekend. Azalea Campground in Grant Grove (Kings Canyon) was fully occupied on Saturday evening.

 

5 thoughts on “Park incidents: Hiker dies in fall at Panther Creek

  • February 21, 2020 at 10:48 am
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    Thank you for this data. It will hopefully lend impetus to adding Park staff including more biologists and ecologists to study our Park forests.im not sure how to help with that but I’m willing . Kay W

    Reply
  • February 21, 2020 at 1:13 pm
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    Sarah, when you are writing about allowing cars to enter the park I think you should use “waved” rather than “waived.”

    Reply
    • February 21, 2020 at 1:28 pm
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      Although the vehicles were directed through the lineup with the WAVE of a hand, perhaps, I have always assumed that the park reports state “waived” because the entry fees were WAIVED for the time being.

      Reply
  • February 21, 2020 at 1:25 pm
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    Panther Creek is a beautiful place where the beauty lures the unsuspecting to peril. Many times I have been there seeing hikers edging to that same rock slab, boots wet, granite wet. I’ve told several of the deaths from that same spot over the years. However, the Instagram world wants that perfect shot.

    Reply
  • February 23, 2020 at 9:07 pm
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    Re: waved or waived on Presidents Day Weekend…forget hiring more unneeded/overpaid biologists and ecologists; Sequoia obviously needs more LE (Law enforcement) rangers and entrance people. If it was that bad on a non-snowy weekend in February, imagine how it will be in the spring/summer.
    Looks like they lost $12,000 in two days by all the waiving and waving.

    Reply

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