Saluda man dies at Big Bradley Falls

Published 9:29 am Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rescue squad vehicles line the roadway along Holbert Cove Rd. in Saluda as crews worked throughout the day Thursday, April 26 to recover the body of missing hiker Jesse Pague. Pague, 24 of Saluda, was reported missing late Wednesday evening. Crews attempted to recover him Wednesday evening but limited light and storms hampered the rescue efforts until Thursday afternoon.

Rescue workers recovered the body of Jesse Pague, 24, of Saluda from the bottom of Big Bradley Falls Thursday afternoon after hours of efforts, said Saluda Deputy Fire Chief Zach Pace.
Rescue workers brought Pague’s body out of the woods at 4:32 p.m. Workers struggled through the afternoon to complete the rescue as rain storms moved through the area.
A 911 call originally came in at 10 p.m. Wednesday reporting the hiker missing. The American Red Cross was called out shortly after midnight to support rescue crews working into the early morning hours to find the man and later to recover his body.
Pace said for the safety of rescue workers the recovery effort was called off until Thursday morning. Rescue workers returned around 9 a.m. Thursday  but continuously were hampered by rain and storms moving through the area.
Rescue workers began making the minimum 30-minute trek out to Big Bradley Falls around 11 a.m., before having to repel several hundred feet to retrieve the hiker’s body.
Henderson County Rescue and Polk County Rescue Squads assisted Saluda Fire and Rescue throughout the day. Pace said working incidents like this require a special certification for wilderness rescue. To be certified for such rescues a department must have a minimum of eight members with more than 100 hours of specific high angle and ropes training.
Pace said the Saluda Fire Department must call this training into use quite often, with calls bringing the department out to Bradley Falls once or twice a year at least.
This would be at least the fifth death at Bradley Falls since the early 1990s. The last death was that of North Carolina firefighter Curtis Jessen in 2008. On Aug. 21, 2008, Jessen was assisting in the clean up of a fire from the previous day when he fell down a 66-foot ravine in the area.