When a serious emergency strikes, parks often rely on help from surrounding agencies for additional manpower or expertise. That cooperation is a two-way street, and the staff at Buffalo National River was recently called upon to help when a fall from a high bluff claimed the life of a former football star near the park.
On Monday, April 19, the park received a request from the Newton County (Arkansas) Sheriff's Department for assistance by the park’s high-angle rescue team. The situation involved a hiker who had fallen from a bluff in the U. S. Forest Service’s Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area.
A command post and staging area were established next to a social trail on private land, since that site provided quicker access to the accident scene. As park staff began to arrive, on-scene personnel radioed that the hiker had not survived the fall, estimated at between 80 and 90 feet. Ranger Melissa Lamm reached the bluff line, scouted the surrounding terrain, and determined that a high-angle recovery was necessary.
A raising system was employed to bring the body back up to the top of the bluff line. Over 30 people from the Buffalo National River, Newton County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Forest Service and area volunteer fire departments, joined by local citizens, assisted with the recovery.
According to news reports, the victim was 26-year-old former Kansas State quarterback Dylan Meier. Newton County sheriff Keith Slape told the Topeka Capital-Journal Meier was hiking with family members. "Dylan had crawled up on top of a rock for a higher view," Slape said. "His father was with him along with two of his brothers and his mother. He was starting to get down, and his father said he slipped, and over the top he went."
Slape commented that the trail itself is not considered dangerous. "There are numerous places where folks leave the trail and go to the edge of the tall bluff to take pictures and do whatever they want to do, and that's apparently what happened to him," Ernst said. "Part of the bluff didn't come off, and it wasn't wet. It was not wet at all. There was nothing particularly dangerous about what he did."
Meier appeared in 35 games during his career at Kansas State, graduated with a degree in business finance, and went on to play professionally in Europe.
"I think for all of us here, it really is a major setback and somewhat difficult to get our arms around right now," aid Kansas State coach Bill Snyder. "He was an unbelievable young man in all the right ways. When he was here in our program, he was as good a leader as one could wish for. He was mature beyond his years. He possessed all the intrinsic values that make people successful, and he guided us in that direction as well.
"The spirit and the passion he had for life and for adventure and for other people as well is the thing that will live on in our minds and our hearts, all of us that he touched around here."