Boy Dies in Crater Fall; Park Eyeing Prevention – July 5, 1977

Boy Dies in Crater Fall; Park Eyeing Prevention

Klamath Falls Herald and News

Klamath Falls, Oregon
July 5, 1977
Crater Lake – The expected finally happened Monday at Crater Lake National Park and park officials are unsure how to help prevent a recurrence.

A 14-year-old Wilmington, Del., young, Steven R. Sommerville, was killed when he fell 600 feet down the caldera wall onto rocks above Crater Lake.

Park rangers said the boy had been playing with his brother, Douglas, 15, below Crater Lake Lodge about 12:45 p.m. when he slipped and fell.

According to Supt. Frank Betts and Chief Ranger Dan Sholly, they fear similar incidents may occur because many park visitors ignore signs warning visitors about the dangers of going beyond the rock wall.

“It is amazing we don’t have this more often because of the number of people who go beyond the rim wall,” Sholly said today.

Sholly noted that besides the danger of sliding down the caldera wall, people also face serious danger from falling rocks. During Monday afternoon’s rescue, Sholly said park rangers narrowly missed being struck with large, flying rocks. Even though park officials prevented people from going near the rim wall during the removal of Sommerville’s body, the flying rock was a serious hazard.

Sommerville was killed instantly and, according to park officials, died of multiple injuries. His brother stayed on the steep slope and yelled for help. Rescuers had to lower Sommerville’s body about 600 feet to the lake, where it was picked up by a tour boat and taken to the rim up the Cleetwood Cove Trail.

The victim’s father was Robert F. Sommerville. The family had been staying at the lodge.

Sommerville is survived by his father, one brother and two sisters, all of Wilmington, Del. Funeral services will be held in Wilmington at a later date. Ward’s Klamath Funeral Home is in charge of local arrangements.

Bretts noted two other minor injuries have resulted when other people crossed the rock wall and slid down portions of the steep, rocky rim wall. “It just doesn’t pay,” Betts said of climbing beyond the wall to take pictures, explore and feed park wildlife.