Chicago rock climber dies after falling 80 feet from North Carolina mountain, officials say

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A Chicago rock climber died Sunday after falling 80 feet from a North Carolina mountain, local officials said.

Austin Howell, 31, was pronounced dead around 1:30 p.m., the Burke County Office’s said on its official Facebook page. The Chicago resident was climbing Shortoff Mountain in Burke County, in western North Carolina.

Austin Howell died after falling 80 feet from Shortoff Mountain North Carolina, officials said.

Austin Howell died after falling 80 feet from Shortoff Mountain North Carolina, officials said. (Google Maps)

“All indications are that this was a true accident,” said Burke County Emergency Management Director Michael Willis. He that Howell was likely climbing alone without ropes or harnesses.

Burke County Emergency Communications Center said it received an alert around 11:45 a.m. that a climber had fallen from the mountain.

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Willis said Howell had landed in a hard-to-reach area, which extended the time it took emergency responders to rescue him. Other climbers had reached Howell and performed CPR before rescue officials arrived, but it was too late, Howell said.

Burke County officials said the portion from which Howell fell was “one of the most difficult portions” of the mountain.

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The mountain is a popular place for climbers despite the presence of warning signs, The State reported. Willis said his department receives between 50 and 100 calls in the area per year.  The U.S. Forest Service is investigating the accident.

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