54-year-old zip line employee dies in 150-foot fall

A man prepares to ride the Kanab Zip Line, Kanab Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Kanab Zip Line, St. George News

KANAB – An employee at Kanab Zipline in Kane County died Tuesday morning in a fall while working on the zip line.

“We are really sorry to announce that one of our contractors was killed today while operating the zipline,” Kanab Zipline General Manager Justin Barnes said in a statement issued Tuesday. “We offer our sincere condolences to the family of the contractor.”

The incident happened at about 11:15 a.m., Kanab Police Chief Tom Cram said.

The man killed, identified as 54-year-old Darrell Gilley, was a new employee at Kanab Zipline and had just started working there Monday. He and his wife just moved to Kanab from California about a month ago, Cram said.

Gilley was working at the deck on the bottom end of the zip line, Cram said, and it was his job to help catch riders as they completed the zip line ride. A rider completing the zip line Tuesday came in too fast.

“You’re instructed before you leave the top deck on how to use the brake. … For whatever reason, he came in hot,” Cram said.

The rider bounced off the bottom deck, and the momentum started carrying the person back up the line, Cram said. Gilley panicked and grabbed the rider, attempting to stop the person from going back up the zip line, and was carried off the deck and dragged back up the line with the rider.

Other employees were yelling at Gilley to let go, Cram said, but for whatever reason Gilley continued hanging on and was carried up to a height of about 150 feet.

“The man (Gilley) couldn’t hang on, and his grip slipped,” Cram said. “He fell 150 feet into the rocks and lost his life.”

Cram said CPR was started immediately after Gilley fell, but the fall was too traumatic and he could not be revived.

Cram said the safety of the rider was never an issue.

“If he’d have let him go, everything would have been fine,” he said.

According to the statement from Kanab Zipline:

Our priority today is looking after the family of the deceased. We have 100 percent safety records. Safety always comes first, so we are working very closely with the authorities to investigate why this accident happened.

Because the death was work-related, Cram said, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is looking into the incident.

“Because it’s an operating business, OSHA is doing their own investigation,” he said.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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  • Bender July 14, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Going to be a whole lot of hurt spread around on this one. Besides the family of employee and the zip line rider involved the owners and/or managers are in for some real pain. Utah Labor Commission and OSHA are going to, among other things, question the dead guy’s classification as a “contractor”. Note to self: zip line owners and operators sometimes make mistakes; be careful.

    • anybody home July 15, 2015 at 10:11 am

      Yes, he’s identified variously as “employee” and “contractor” so OSHA and ULC will look carefully at this.

      Such a nightmare tragedy. Has it been shut down now?

  • fun bag July 14, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    Well, obviously people that ride zip lines are too idiotic to use some kind of manual brake. That probably takes more IQ points than the average “zip liner” has. Time to shut down this half-baked operation.

  • sagemoon July 15, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Tragic and sad.

  • CaliGirl July 15, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Glad to hear “the safety of the rider was never an issue” as they came barreling in at a high rate of speed and not knowing what to do. Why was the “contractor” not wearing a safety harness and tethered securely to the deck? This is going to cost a pretty penny. I hope the family do the “contractor” hires a really good attorney.

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