An Idaho teenager visiting Glacier National Park with his parents died late Tuesday afternoon after falling 100 feet down Haystack Creek, park officials said Wednesday.
Spencer Flerchinger, 15, of Kamiah, Idaho, was exploring a culvert that runs beneath Going-to-the-Sun Road when he slipped into the creek and was carried through, falling 100 feet below the road.
A shuttle driver called park dispatch at about 4:30 p.m., and rangers were able to reach the boy after responding to the scene. He did not survive the fall.
In Wednesday’s announcement, park officials said a similar fatal accident occurred at Haystack Creek last July, when a visitor fell into the creek above the culvert while taking a photograph.
It is unusual, they said, for multiple fatalities to occur at the exact same location. Falls into water features, however, are fairly common in Glacier Park.
The park’s advisory urged visitors to use “extreme caution” while exploring and recreating in Glacier. Many areas may seem safe – for example, a pullout on the Sun Road – but hazards exist in virtually all areas of the park.
“Glacier has 42 named waterfalls in addition to unnamed creeks and falls, and tens of miles of roadway that border steep cliffs,” the advisory said. “Falls in and near water features are a leading cause of death and visitors should avoid areas with slippery rocks that might result in a significant fall.”
Chief Ranger Paul Austin added his own words of caution and advice.
“It’s often the case that people hear about a tragic incident like this and think that it couldn’t happen to them,” Austin said in a written statement Wednesday. “The facts are that many people explore the park each day in ways that could result in a serious accident.
“Take a few minutes before your trip to public lands to identify significant hazards. Prepare for the possibility of getting lost on a trail or an unexpected animal encounter. Stay away from rushing creeks and sheer drops.”
Glacier National Park staff members added a message, extending their condolences to the victim’s family and friends.