UTC student dies hiking at Signal Point

UTC student dies hiking at Signal Point

March 7th, 2015 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Signal Point

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It took rescuers hours on Friday to retrieve the body of a 20-year-old student who fell 200 feet to his death while hiking at Signal Point on Signal Mountain.

Signal Mountain Police Chief Mike Williams said Tyler Dean Pelts, a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, probably slipped in icy conditions and fell.

Pelts' brother reported him missing around 7:45 a.m. Friday and police located his body at 9:30 a.m.

But the rough vertical and rocky terrain meant it took five crews five or six hours to recover his body, Williams said. The Signal Mountain Fire Department, Hamilton County Special Tactics & Rescue Services, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Rescue Service, Waldens Ridge Emergency Service and Chattanooga Fire Department's Urban Search and Rescue team assisted with the rescue, finishing around 3:30 p.m., said Williams.

It's the second death in the area in less than four months. In December, 20-year-old Dalton Downing died after falling while hiking alone in the mountainous terrain below Signal Point. Downing, from Memphis, also was a UTC student.

Williams said Signal Mountain police noticed Pelts' van parked in the area Thursday night and looked around the park then, but no missing person report had been filed and it's not unusual for people to park and camp in the area even in bad weather.

Pelts' Facebook page says he was scheduled to graduate in 2016. He worked at Mellow Mushroom and graduated from Christian Brothers High School in Memphis. He had been in the Chattanooga area living with his brother, Williams said.

Brad Tipton, captain of Chattanooga-Hamilton County Rescue Service, said Friday he didn't work Pelts' accident but has some 18 years' experience with the rescue service.

He admonishes hikers to plan ahead before hiking in weather conditions -- like the area has seen recently -- where temperatures may fluctuate from 70 degrees to below freezing in 24 hours.

More hikers die from weather exposure than falls, he said.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman atyputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.

Crews are working the scene where a 20 year old male hundreds of feet to his death Thursday night near Signal Point Park on Signal Mountain.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.