Old Man's Cave

Hocking Hills State Park is seen in this file photo. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is investigating a woman’s death at the park on Labor Day, caused by a falling tree branch.

Note: This story appears in the Thursday, Sept. 5 newspaper on Page A1.

LOGAN — A Chillicothe woman was killed by a falling tree while hiking in Hocking Hills State Park on Labor Day, officials have reported.

She is the third person to die from an incident at the state park in 2019.

The victim has been identified as Victoria Shafer, 44, of Chillicothe. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources reported that Schafer was on the stairs near Old Man’s Cave at around 5:30 p.m. on Monday when she was struck by a falling section of a tree. The Hocking County Coroner’s Office pronounced her dead at the scene.

Law enforcement agencies are now investigating if someone is responsible for the fallen tree branch.

David Roorbach, a public information officer for ODNR, told The Logan Daily News that officers have evidence suggesting the falling section of tree was not a natural occurrence.

ODNR is asking for the public’s help — anyone with potential information about this incident is encouraged to contact ODNR at 614-799-9538.

In addition to ODNR, Hocking County EMS and Laurelville Fire Department responded to the scene Monday evening. ODNR is leading the ongoing investigation with the assistance of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal investigation and the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office.

“This is a tragedy and our deepest sympathies are with Mrs. Schafer’s family and friends during this difficult time,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz stated. “The safety of our guests is our top priority. Our investigation is ongoing so that we gain a clear understanding of what happened.”

This marks the second death near Old Man’s Cave in the past month.

On Aug. 24, Alexander Cristin Colson, 22, of Columbus, fell to his death on the overlook trail at the Lower Falls at Old Man’s Cave. Witnesses reported that Colson was standing on the trail with his back to the cliff’s edge when he took a step backward, lost his footing and fell approximately 75 feet. Officials continue to investigate that incident.

In June, 55-year-old Dana Busson, of Doylestown, died after falling at Conkle’s Hollow. Her body was recovered in a remote location after she went missing while hiking the area. It is unknown if she ventured off the trail and lost her way, or if she experienced a medical emergency that caused her to fall.

Park rangers are reminding visitors to follow park instructions and stay on the posted trails. those hiking should follow the instructions on the signs posted throughout the parks and stay on the trails.

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Debra Tobin is the editor of The Logan Daily News.

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