[Updated] Man Found Dead at Baxter Peak in Third Katahdin SAR Incident This Week

10/13/2020 update: The hiker deceased hiker found at Baxter Peak has now been identified as Nathan Leigh Bell of Walkersville, MD.

A man was found dead at the summit of Katahdin on Thursday, Baxter State Park officials announced Friday morning, October 9. “The body of an unidentified male was found Thursday, October 8, 2020, at approximately 10:00 am, on Baxter Peak. The body was later reported via a 911 call at about 11:30 am. Baxter State Park (BSP) Rangers were alerted shortly after that and initiated a recovery mission flown by the Maine Army National Guard.

“The Maine Army National Guard UH60L Blackhawk landed atop the mountain at 3:44 pm, and BSP Rangers assisted in loading the body into the helicopter. The body was transported to Caribou Pit on the Park’s southern border at 4:00 pm. Lawson Funeral Home transported the body to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Augusta. BSP District Rangers are investigating and details will be released as they become available.”

Baxter State Park announced on Tuesday, October 13, that the hiker has been identified as 27-year-old Nathan Leigh Bell of Walkersville, MD. “There was no evidence of foul play,” according to the Park. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is investigating the cause of death.

“Last Wednesday evening the weather was foggy and rainy, with temperatures plummeting to the single digits with sub-zero wind chills buy Thursday morning. Mr. Bell’s clothing and equipment were insufficient for a prolonged stay in such conditions.”

This tragedy follows two other search and rescue incidents on Katahdin this week, including one additional death.

A hiker died after being air-lifted off the mountain on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Donald MacGillis died from his injuries after being air-lifted off the mountain in critical condition. According to the Park, in that incident, “a seventy-five year old man from Pittsfield Massachusetts was air-lifted by a Maine Army National Guard UH60L Blackhawk helicopter after becoming lost off the Knife Edge and sustaining injuries from a fall. The man and his twenty-five year old nephew, who was also air-lifted, started up the Dudley Trail from Chimney Pond at 11:30 am Tuesday, and lost the trail in the fog, rain and darkness around South Peak.”

Baxter State Park Chief Ranger Dan Rinard was notified via a 911 call at approximately 12:30 am. At the time, neither hiker was injured. “At approximately 3:10 am, the younger hiker notified Rinard directly that the older hiker had sustained injuries from a tumbling fall of more than 50 feet… Both hikers were becoming hypothermic but remained stable. Rinard maintained intermittent contact with the younger hiker throughout the night.”

A rescue operation was mounted near daybreak, including both the Blackhawk helicopter and BSP Rangers on foot. MacGillis was hoisted into the Blackhawk shortly after 10:30 am. He was transported to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in critical condition from hypothermia and other injuries. According to his son, MacGillis later died from his injuries.

A 13-year-old suffered a medical emergency and was air-lifted from the Abol Trail on Sunday.

Meanwhile, on October 4, a 13-year-old hiker was air-lifted off the Abol Trail after suffering a medical emergency on the tableland. Fellow hikers carried him for two hours until they could find cell service to call for rescue. The boy was hoisted into a Blackhawk helicopter around 5:30 pm that day. He was subsequently transported to Millinocket Regional Hospital for treatment, according to Baxter State Park.

“This is the second death of a hiker on Katahdin in as many days,” said Park Director Eben Sypitkowski of the body discovered on Thursday morning. “On behalf of Baxter State Park staff, I extend the sincerest condolences to families of these two individuals.

“The mountain is a formidable place, especially as winter approaches. I ask everyone visiting us this fall and winter to please be safe, set an early turn around time and stick to it, and always carry sufficient food, water, and clothing. We have an outstanding professional staff here at Baxter State Park. Please feel free to reach out to us to help you plan as safe a visit as possible.”

Featured image via Troy Zohner.

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Comments 3

  • Russ1663 : Oct 10th

    It is a sad day when there are injuries and worse to have deaths. Having hikes up some fairly rugged terrain it is always in the back of my mind that hiking the trails, anywhere, can be hazardous. Older folks, me included, I’m 71, can have a wonderful time wandering the back country. You have to know your limitations; your physical and mental status are paramount if you plan a multi-day trip. Prepping for thru hiking is another world altogether. I go out local day trips and there are still concerns. I understand there are many a elder soul have thru hiked the AT and other trails, I salute their accomplishments. To all of all ages, know yourself, your equipment and have an extraction plan. Oh, dont forget communications by whatever means for all the obvious reasons.

  • jen lynn : Oct 19th

    Watch Confidential Campfires YouTube video’s of their experience with Katahdin and it will all make sense.


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