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Man dies in climbing accident near Bridal Veil Falls in Utah

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Posted at 4:13 PM, Jul 20, 2021

PROVO, Utah — A 40-year-old man died in Utah on Saturday after he apparently fell while climbing at Bridal Veil Falls with his fiancée's 9-year-old son.

Utah County search and rescue (SAR) volunteers and a Department of Public Safety (DPS) helicopter team assisted in a daring operation on the steep and rocky terrain of the falls to retrieve the body of Adrian Vanderklis Sunday morning.

"We got a call a little after 7 p.m. [Saturday] from a woman who said that her fiancé and her son were climbing up here at Bridal Veil," said Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff's Office. "They hadn't seen them for a couple of hours and that caused them concern."

When deputies and SAR arrived, they said the 9-year-old boy made it down safely. The boy stated he was hiking in front of Vanderklis on their way down from the climb.

"At some point, he turned around and he couldn't see [Vanderklis]," Cannon added. "When search and rescue got up here and did some looking, they located [him]. He was in an area, very steep angle near a vertical cliff and he was deceased."

With the light quickly fading, Cannon said the SAR team decided to delay the recovery efforts until Sunday morning in order to avoid further catastrophe.

"We got here about 7 [Sunday] morning and started setting things up," Cannon said.

With the assistance of a DPS helicopter team, SAR volunteers were able to hoist Vanderklis's body off the steep cliffs of Bridal Veil Falls.

"These search and rescue volunteers are amazing," Cannon said. "They're very, very skilled in what they do. They have the training and the expertise. Same thing with the DPS helicopter crew. They can get us into some really tight spots like they did today."

Bridal Veil Falls is one of the more popular recreation destinations in northern Utah, drawing in tens of thousands of visitors every year. It's also the site of a lot of search and rescue operations, with more than five deaths in the last eight years, according to Cannon.

"One of the things we run into very often is that people have gone beyond what their ability is in the area where they're climbing or hiking," he said.

In this case, it's believed both Vanderklis and the 9-year-old boy were experienced with the area where they were climbing.

"Go out and enjoy the fun, but make sure you know what your limits are," Cannon added. "Either limits physically by the skill or your own conditioning."

Investigators will continue to piece together exactly what led up to Vanderklis's death, but they are calling the incident a "tragic accident."

In a press release posted on their website, the Utah County Sheriff's Office said they "extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Mr. Vanderklis and his fiance and her family."

This story was originally published by Diego Romo and Stephen Romney at KSTU.