Rescued climbers face fines, community service, or jail time

The four climbers from out of town who had to be rescued at the Ithaca Falls natural area on Wednesday afternoon could face fines, community service, or even jail time, according to the Ithaca Police Department.

IPD public information officer Jamie Williamson tells 14850 Today this morning that all four were ticketed with violations under City Code § 114-7F, which specifies that “rock and ice climbing and rappelling” are prohibited in natural areas of the City of Ithaca, “unless expressly permitted or carried out pursuant to a duly issued permit.”

Under City Code, violations “shall be punishable by a fine of not more than $250 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 15 days, and not less than $100 or 25 hours of community service.”

Laws in some states or counties allow municipalities to recover the costs of mounting a rescue in some circumstances. In New Hampshire, for example, people can be billed when “negligent” behavior puts them in a situation where they need to be rescued. Some emergency responders worry that the prospect of a hefty bill could make people hesitate to call for help when they really need it, rather than make people hesitate to do reckless things that put them (and their rescuers) at risk.

All four individuals, counselors from the French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts summer camp in the Catskills, were in town to hike area trails. “They had started from the top,” according to an IFD statement, and “left the safety of the observation area.” A female climber “became unable to climb forward or back due to the steep cliffs and slippery shale,” and three others “went to assist her and became trapped themselves.”

Firefighters assembled a rope system to rescue the trapped climbers, using safety lines and a harness to attach each victim to a rescuer. IFD personnel “were then able to negotiate the sharp terrain back up and out to safety,” according to Lt. Thomas T. Basher Jr. of Ithaca Fire Department. Basher says the four were all roughly of college age.

No one was injured in Wednesday afternoon’s rescue effort.

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