3.8.11

Woman dies in 600ft fall in Yosemite. Family question why Park Rangers didn't do more to stop her.

"Never Speak Ill of the Dead."
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/08/14th-death-in-yosemite-this-year-prompts-concerns-from-rangers.html
Haley LaFlamme, 26
http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/state&id=8282735
The grieving family of a Bay Area hiker wants to know why there is not more supervision for climbers at Yosemite National Park's Half Dome. San Ramon resident Haley LaFlamme, 25, fell to her death on Sunday. She is the second person from that city to die at Half Dome in the last two years.
According to family members, LaFlamme was very much looking forward to scaling the cables at Half Dome again. She had taken the same route a year ago in weather that appeared much better than what LaFlamme and three friends encountered Sunday.
"The granite was really slick; Haley was traveling down from the summit with her party of three when she fell," park spokesperson Kari Cobb said. 
In an email to ABC7, one of LaFlamme's family members questioned whether rangers should do more to protect visitor safety and warn climbers of potential hazards, including lightning storms.
"We have signs posted; it's up to the visitor to assess the safety," Cobb said.
 http://www.englishclub.com/ref/esl/Sayings/Quizzes/Talking_2/Never_speak_ill_of_the_dead_933.htm

"Never speak ill of the dead" - ancient proverb.

Meaning: Show respect to people who have died by not saying anything bad about them. Since dead people can no longer hurt us, or defend themselves, it is better to forget their bad actions and remember only their good ones.
Origin: This proverb has been traced back to Chilon of Sparta (6th century BC). The Latin version was "De mortuis nil nisi bonum" ("Of the dead say nothing but good").
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-group%E2%80%93out-group_bias
In-group–out-group bias, also called intergroup bias, refers to the phenomenon of in-group favoritism, a preference and affinity for one’s in-group over the out-group, or anyone viewed as outside the in-group. This can be expressed in evaluation of others, linking, allocation of resources and many other ways.[1] This interaction has been researched by many psychologists and linked to many theories related to group conflict and prejudice. 
Families "can't understand" how their little boy would "do such a thing." A wife swears that her husband could never have tried to rob anyone in Pakistan, saying "he was not a criminal." The friends of a killer of 80-some people say "that's not the person I knew. He would never have done that. I don't understand."

"Never speak ill of the dead" is a fairly strong social taboo against talking trash about people who can't defend themselves. A time of great personal loss is a time of mourning and respect. The problem is this taboo keeps us from learning valuable lessons.

Such as don't get in a Porsche with a drunk driver - even if that person is your friend and a minor "Jackass" movie celebrity. He might just step on the accelerator and off you go, now you're dead and your friend is dead and your family and fans are hurt and unhappy.


Or the lesson that steep rocks get slippery when wet and if you don't have the gear to protect yourself and you're not roped up and clipped in and have the grip strength to grab on to a cable and arrest yourself - then don't go climbing up a really steep cliff in the rain.

So here's me breaking that social taboo:

1. Instead of asking why the Park Rangers didn't "supervise" your now dead daughter better - ask yourself why you raised a daughter to believe that she could climb up a steep cliff in the rain with only a tiny little cable to hold on to.


2. Instead of looking for someone to place blame on, look for a way to educate and help others avoid your situation. Tell mothers and fathers to teach their kids to become strong, risk-aware, risk-assessing people who are capable of being the one person in a group of friends who stands up and says "Hey guys, I don't think this is safe, we need more gear or we need to wait til the weather gets better."


3. Ask if it's really necessary to install cables going up a steep cliff - does this just enable people who have no business or training to be on the sharp end of a cliff (or the sharp end of anything, for that matter) - does it lull them into a false sense of security that this is just another Disneyland ride and Big Brother will be there to protect them? Should some things remain so dangerous-looking that people, even "city folk" in fact realize that they really are dangerous?


4. Ask if you can donate money to put up a wooden sign reading, in official-looking Park Service style: "This many people have died around this area since 19XX." Followed by a nice simple tally of marks in the wood.


5. Ask if you can donate a sign saying "On July 28th, 2011, our daughter Haley LaFlamme died on this path while hiking in the rain. She was 26 years old and we loved her very much. Please don't let this happen to your family."


A few years ago a group of about 40 people witnessed another hiker fall to his death in the same area. They were so scared that they refused to come down by themselves and were eventually rescued - I don't know if it was by helicopter (I hope not, that's hugely expensive and that money comes out of park fees and taxpayer's money) or more likely by competent personnel hiking up there and holding their hands on the way down. In an ideal world, if it was up to me, I'd just rather have left those people up there. Eventually hunger will drive you to come down on your own. Every one of those people had gotten themselves up there under their own power. You can get down the same way. Park Rangers have better things to do and don't get paid enough and there's not enough money to go around taking care of all the things that a National Park legitimately needs.


A few weeks ago three people climbed over a railing and went out to pose for a picture on a rock by a fast-flowing river in Yosemite. The girl slipped. One guy reached for her and fell in. Then the other guy slipped, too. The bodies have not been found - they are presumed to have been swept over a 220-foot water fall.


"But the government should do something!"


"It's not my fault!"


"Why didn't <authority> stop this?"


Well, you've got a finite amount of money to go around. All that money comes from taxes and fees and has to pay for all kinds of things besides trying to stop people from doing dangerous things that can kill them. If you really think the Park Service is wrong here, then by all means sue them. Or join them and change how they operate from the inside. Or take it up with your local elected representative and have a public debate about it. Write a blog post about it.


Or just complain about it. Which is kind of what I'm doing, so I can't really criticize you for complaining.


Haley LaFlamme was 25 or 26 years old (sources differ) and seems like a positive, good, good-looking young woman. All I can tell from pictures is that she liked hiking, had friends and seems fairly fit.


This doesn't have to happen to you or your family. Talk about safety. Talk about risk-assessment and risk-taking behaviour. Talk about strength and getting ready for emergencies. Talk about grip strength and proper equipment. Talk about weather and how it can kill you out in the wilderness.

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