Deadly Echo Canyon rappelling accident stirs up Valley woman's memories

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- One Valley woman who knows all too well how dangerous and downright deadly Camelback Mountain can be, and is continuing to raise awareness after Friday's fatal falls.

"It definitely triggers, especially with it being a fall and something so tragic and so sudden," Chelsey McHale said.

Friday's rappelling accident at Echo Canyon that killed an off-duty firefighter and a teen boy hits too close to home for McHale.

Her brother, Clint McHale, 25, also lost his life on Camelback Mountain.

"He was climbing Echo Canyon," she said. "He chose to go off trail. He didn't have the proper safety equipment, and when he was almost to the top, he fell 50 feet."

That was in May 2011.

Since then, McHale has worked with the City of Phoenix to raise awareness about the dangers of hiking and climbing Camelback Mountain, and especially the risks of going off trail, no matter how experienced you are.

"With the deaths that recently happened, even though those probably were just accidents, it just goes to show that anything can happen, that you aren't invincible, even when you take the proper safety precautions," she said.

Three years after her brother's death she was able to place a warning sign in Clint's honor on Echo Canyon Trail.

"That has his picture and story to show people that he was experienced and that he wasn't invincible and that it could happen to you," McHale said.

Since that sign was put into place in May, there have been three deaths on Camelback  Mountain.

The two most recent happened Friday morning, when off-duty veteran firefighter Gary Johnstone and Trevor Crouse, the son of a Phoenix police officer, both died after falling some 30 feet while rappelling.

"That's really shocking to me, and there does need to be more done," McHale said. "I thought it was over once the sign was up, but I still have work to do."

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