A Dawsonville, Ga., man died accidentally Sunday afternoon while rappelling at Cullasaja Falls in Macon County.
Macon County 9-1-1 received a call at 4:17 p.m. advising that a person had fallen an estimated 150 feet near the top of Cullasaja Falls near Highway 64 East. The man was identified Monday afternoon, following notification of his family, as 19-year-old Gregory Cooper.
According to Macon County Emergency Services director Warren Cabe, Cooper had been rappelling above the falls with a group of other individuals. The cause of the accident is unknown, but Cooper fell at the base of the falls, actually landing in the water, and died on impact.
Rescue workers recovered his body at approximately 5:00 p.m. at the base of the falls. The incident is still under investigation. Another individual was slightly injured in the accident but was not taken in for further medical attention. Cullasaja Fire and Rescue and Highlands Fire and Rescue also responded to the incident and traffic was diverted around the area for approximately an hour.
Cooper was practicing a method known as “Australian” rappelling, which involves rappelling down a vertical surface while facing forward and downward toward the ground in a standing position, explained Cabe. In Australia, the technique is referred to as “Geneva” style, rather than “Australian” rappelling. The technique is used most often by military and special forces, where a soldier is belayed, allowing them to face downward so that they may fire their weapon during the quick descent.
According to U.S. Forest Service Ranger Mike Wilkins, investigators are trying to determine exactly how Cooper fell. “It was a very tragic accident,” Wilkins remarked, adding that the Cullasaja Falls area is a popular site for rappelling.