Tom Gerbier, an Air France pilot who went missing Wednesday, was found Thursday after a fatal 1,000-foot fall in California’s Sequoia National Park. The 38-year-old was hiking Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental United States, when he died.
The National Park Service said Gerbier left early Tuesday morning from Whitney Portal, the gateway to Mt. Whitney. He was reported missing after failing to show up for work on Wednesday to pilot a commercial flight and was eventually found by deployed ground crews.
“This rescue was made possible through the assistance and cooperation of the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, the Inyo Search and Rescue Team and the climbing community,” the National Park Service wrote in its statement.
A French national from Fontenay-sous-Bois was located in an area known as “L’Encoche”. During a helicopter search, park services spotted the “stationary hiker” and picked up Gerbier to transfer him to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office for identification.
Gerbier’s death marked the second fatality this year for the park, which is jointly administered by the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Service. Gerbier was only going to be in California briefly – and had made a stopover for his airline.
“(Air France) regrets to confirm the accidental death of one of its pilots… while on a stopover in Los Angeles (California),” they told the San Francisco Chronicle in a statement on Friday. The company extends its deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.
Mount Whitney has fascinated mountaineers for decades and is said to stand unparalleled on the continent at approximately 14,494 feet. In 2011, California native Tyler Armstrong, aged 7, became the youngest person to achieve it.
The park service claimed on its website that Mt. Whitney is “the most frequently climbed peak in the Sierra Nevada.” They also claimed that “technical climbing equipment is generally not necessary between mid-July and early October.”
It is not yet known whether Gerbier used climbing equipment during his hike.