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Officer: Hiker who fell to her death knew trail well

POSTED: June 19, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The Yonah Mountain trail, from which a Sautee teenager fell to her death Saturday, was well-known and well-traveled to her and her friends, a White County Fire official said Sunday.

"It’s something they’ve done all the time. They’ve lived in the county all their lives," said Ana Newberry, public information officer for White County Fire Department .

Elena Rae Shaw, 18, fell 600 feet from the top of Yonah Mountain Saturday afternoon and died on the mountain shortly after paramedics found her. She was hiking with two friends.

Newberry said Shaw and the group were enjoying the scenic view at the top of the mountain when Shaw slipped from the path and fell down the sloping granite mountainside.

"We think her foot slipped out from under her and she just lost her footing, and it’s a granite face so there’s nothing to hold onto, no branches or anything grows there," Newberry said.

A male member of the hiking group ran from the top of the mountain to the nearest available phone to call for help.

Newberry said the hike down the mountain typically takes almost two hours, and the friend who called for help was taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center and treated for heat exhaustion after he called 911.

White County Fire Department received the call at 1:31 p.m. The fire department as well as White County EMS and White County Sheriff’s Office responded to the call. Fire officials found Shaw alive at 2:49 p.m. Newberry said Shaw’s brother and lifelong friend helped officials to locate Shaw after she fell through the treetops.

Once found, officials were in the process of securing Shaw in an emergency basket they would carry down the narrow mountain trail by foot when she went into cardiac arrest. She did not make it into the helicopter waiting to take her to the hospital.

The party of four was familiar with the mountain, and no alcohol or drugs were involved in the incident, Newberry said.

"Elena was a religious girl — a good kid on the track to somewhere," she said.

Shaw had recently graduated from Mountain Education Center in Dahlonega with honors as salutatorian and enjoyed soccer and track sports.

She is survived by her mother, Kathy Sands of Sautee, her father, Barry Shaw of Buford and her brother, Jake Shaw of Sautee and half brother and sister, Colby Shaw and Sofia Shaw, both of Buford.

Services for Elena Shaw will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Nacoochee United Methodist Church with funeral services following at 2 p.m. at Alexander’s Gateway Chapel Funeral Home in Cleveland.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story indicated incorrectly that Shaw was hiking with her brother. Shaw actually was hiking only with two friends. 



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