No charges in Wyo. climber’s death
August 24, 2007
CHEYENNE, Wyo. ” No criminal charges will be filed against a man who threw a bowling ball-sized rock over a cliff, hitting and killing another man climbing below, a prosecutor said Friday.
Fremont County Attorney Ed Newell said a number of factors went into his decision not to file criminal charges, including the fact that drugs and alcohol were not involved. Newell has refused to identify the man who threw the rock, saying only that he recently returned from military service in Iraq.
Pete Absolon, 47, died instantly when he was struck by the rock Aug. 11 while climbing the Leg Lake Cirque in the Wind River Mountains near Lander, 220 miles northwest of Cheyenne. Absolon was the Rocky Mountain regional director of the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander.
Newell said Absolon’s widow has the option of pursuing a civil case.
The man, who had no prior record, was hiking with several others on top the cliff when he threw the rock weighing about 15 to 20 pounds over the ledge and down a sheer rock wall, Newell said.
“He had no idea that there was anybody below,” Newell said.
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The man then leaned over and saw the rock hit Absolon, immediately calling his friends for help and running to the bottom of the cliff to check on Absolon, Newell said.
“He could have easily walked away, and it would have been assumed that the rock had simply fallen due to natural causes,” Newell said.
In making his decision not to file charges, Newell cited the man’s remorse and said he took responsibility and cooperated with investigators.
Still, Newell said throwing the rock over the ledge without checking to see if anyone was below was “criminally negligent or reckless.”
“Mr. Absolon died needlessly, leaving a wife and young daughter to live their lives without his love and support,” Newell said. “We all need to understand that a moment’s carelessness can kill.”