Video shows men swimming at Palouse Falls before 1 disappears
Emergency crews were searching Thursday afternoon for the body of a 26-year-old hiker who reportedly fell off a cliff into the river above Palouse Falls.
The Franklin County Sheriff's Office had not released the identity of the young man early Thursday evening, but Sheriff Jim Raymond said he apparently had ties to the Kennewick area.
It is the second death in three weeks at the park.
A Colville man, Isaac Engell, 23, drowned while swimming in the churning water below the falls on April 21. The park only reopened a week ago.
On Thursday afternoon about 100 people were at the park when a young man walked out on a ledge above the upper pool at the park, Raymond said.
Witnesses said the ledge gave way and the man fell 50 to 100 feet and rolled into the water, according to Raymond.
A friend called 911 to report he had not surfaced.
The Pasco Fire Department was at the park with its ropes team, which has the capability to set up a rope system to reach the water.
Columbia Basin Dive Rescue also was called out.
Initial reports were that conditions were too hazardous to send in a diver, but that a boat might be launched.
The state maintains about a half mile of trails at the park and has signs posted warning visitors of the danger of using unofficial trails.
But visitors often walk past the warning signs to hike trails along the ledges and the steep cliffs of the falls.
The Palouse Falls make a dramatic 198-foot drop off basalt rock in the desert about 20 miles east of Kahlotus.
The unofficial trails lead to the bottom of the falls, the crest of the falls and to the rapids of the Palouse River just upstream from the falls.
"People have got to be careful," Raymond said. "The risks are too great to be taking in this situation."
Washington State Parks is already studying safety at Palouse Falls State Park after the drowning in April.
The state closed the park again Thursday afternoon.