On Sept. 2, Victoria Schafer was shooting photographs of six high school seniors at a popular waterfall near a cliff called Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills State Park outside Logan, Ohio. Suddenly, a 74-pound log fell from above, striking Schafer and killing her instantly. She left behind a husband of 21 years and four teenage children.

An examination of the site after the accident made it clear the log had been thrown intentionally. Nearly a month later, investigators received a tip that led them to two 16-year-old boys. The boys have now been charged with reckless homicide.

Molly Absolon writes Mountainside every other week. Contact her via columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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(4) comments


The people in the story are victims of extreme stupidity. What possible good can ever come from launching a rock down a mountain or throwing a log of a cliff. Never a thought given to that something like this could hurt someone else. It's not a crime to too be stupid, but to stupidly cause someone else's death is. Ignoring it is just enabling it. If someone were to use a fire arm, then that would be crime. Using another weapon of choice like a rock or a log leaves the victim just as dead as a gun shot.

Jeffrey Walker

First and foremost, so sorry to hear of the loss of your husband. What an awful thing to have happen.

What I'd like to hone in on is your comparison of rolling rocks and logs down a hill to the avalanches on Teton Pass. First, just some fact checking, charges have been filed against at least one skier. Second, and maybe most importantly, unlike this rock and log throwing you are analogizing, avalanches are not solely human triggered. There have been countless avalanches that have put commuters in danger that were triggered otherwise. Its also impossible to know if skier triggered avalanches that impacted the road would have come down at a later point in the day through natural means.

Put another way, we could outlaw skiing on Teton Pass and the avalanche problem will still very much persist.

The big question on the Pass is simple: what will it take to raise the money for avalanche sheds? Like it or not, the pass goes directly underneath 3 slide paths. This side of a tunnel, that will always be the case.

Why is the entire town in favor of wildlife crossings, but for a very similar amount of money we can mitigate this danger once and for all on the pass? Are the JH moose somehow more valuable than the Teton Valley commuters? Jackson apparently thinks so...

Lets aim to fix the problem (keeping people out of harms way), not simply vilify one big part of the community in Jackson and Teton Valley.

Don Frank

Molly. Reckless behavior creates profound loss and I’ll informed judgement has consequences. I an deeply saddened by Pete’s unnecessary death and the incomprehensible nature of grief. Mr. Walker makes some points above but misses the judgement dynamic in my humble view. If avalanches are loaded energy poised to move downhill and if some avalanches will slide into our public roads then society can make an informed judgement. DOT does avalanche control on suspect terrain and CLOSE the pass using informed judgement. Recreational skiers who ski into potentially loaded slopes above commuting neighbors are taking a risk for themselves and for innocent persons in harms way downslope. One reasonable judgement is to only ski backcountry slopes that are NOT positioned above our roads. YES that does mean that skiers avoid easier accessed pitches above Teton Pass roadways. It means using respectful judgement and caring more about our friends and neighbors then our personal pleasure. By the way the snow structure built on the early sixties on Teton Pass did not survive initial winter force events. So spend millions on direction enormous forces or adjust human behavior. If I survive a human caused avalanche driving on Teton Pass I will not take the “ignorant boys will be self indulgent boys” defense. Sorry Molly, my grief over loss and reckless behavior does not allow me to be silent when selfishness and ego surface. I say enough, no more.

Jeffrey Walker

Fair points Don.

One thing I'd like to hone in on however...

Avalanche sheds are very proven throughout Europe and Canada. (google Rogers Pass) There are parts of the US too where they've been shown incredibly effective. Do not confuse engineering from 40+ years ago with today's engineering and understanding of materials.

To add, this isn't a way to "fix poor behavior and decision making". Its a way to make the pass safer, period. Realize most avalanches that have impacted the road way ***have not been skier triggered***. This is by a large margin, too. I welcome you to use the Jackson Hole Avalanche database from years prior to dig into this.

WYDOT has studied the idea of using avalanche sheds, and its been deemed a good idea if it were not for the cost, which is (ironically) ~similar cost to the wildlife crossings that were just approved.

That's right, we can actually mitigate this problem for $10-20M. That is the price one wealthy person is spending on their house in Jackson. Though it may seem like a large amount of money, its really a drop in the bucket considering what is being protected.

There is no boys will be boys defense here. The defense is "lets decouple the pass from the avalanche paths as much as possible in the first place".

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