The deaths at Palouse Falls State Park over the past few years have been sad and tragic, and state officials made the right call when they decided to add new signs with sterner language to warn of the dangers near the popular waterfall.
A number of people who made comments about the story on the Tri-City Herald Facebook page, however, don’t agree:
“It’s not a state problem. Quit wasting money on this. People are stupid and die everyday. So be it.”
“Remove all the signs and the people with smart genes will be left and then the deaths will stop.”
“Let’em fall lol.”
“How dumb do u gotta be to fall off a cliff?”
“Can’t fix stupid.”
“That’s how God weeds out the morons and thereby eliminates some of the gene pool contamination.”
Unfortunately, these are just a few of the thoughtless remarks this story generated. On Tuesday there were 36 comments on the post and about half expressed an insensitivity that we find appalling.
We know stories we share on Facebook spawn statements that often are tactless, shallow and unkind. At times we remove them, and at other times we let them go and allow other commenters to counter the cruelty.
This time, though, the string of vitriol was just too much, and we are calling out those who made such caustic and heartless posts.
Since 2016, four young men have died at the Franklin County tourist spot — two this past spring. These deaths are painful to the grieving families, and people shouldn’t make light of them.
Noble Stoneman, 25, a recent graduate of Washington State University, fell last May when a ledge he was walking along reportedly crumbled. It was the same place where a hiker, Cade Prophet, 25 of Spokane, fell to his death Memorial Day 2017.
Last April, Isaac Engle, 23 Colville, made his way on unmarked trails to the water beneath the falls and drowned when he went swimming in the churning water. Another young man, James Hopkins, 22 of Lake Stevens, drowned in May 2016.
In response, state officials appropriately set out to strengthen the warning signs around the park.
Palouse Falls was carved more than 13,000 years ago and has a 198-foot drop into a pool. It’s a spectacular sight, and the park offers three safe, distinct spots to view the falls.
The problem is that unofficial paths have been worn down by others trying to get a better look at the waterfall, and those trails appear safer than they truly are despite the warning signs.
Now, the state has put up additional fencing and new signs that say, as an example, “Warning – People have died here – We want you to live – Stay back from the cliff edge.”
The new signs were made to give as strong and succinct message as possible to visitors, said Audra Sims, Blue Mountain area manager for Washington State Parks.
It is a renewed attempt to keep people from getting too close to the ledge, and that’s commendable.
And while we hope these improvements make a difference, we understand others believe they probably won’t.
But there are more civil ways to make that point than posting flip, callous remarks on Facebook that imply it’s no big deal when people die.
People’s lives matter and their families matter. Remember that next time you want to say something snarky in public about someone else’s tragedy.