Tom Gerbier, an Air France pilot reported missing Wednesday, was found Thursday after falling 1,000 feet to his death at California’s Sequoia National Park. The 38-year-old was hiking Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, when he died.
The National Park Service said Gerbier set off early Tuesday morning from Whitney Portal, the gateway to Mt. Whitney. He was reported missing after failing to appear Wednesday at work to pilot a commercial flight and was ultimately found by deployed ground teams.
“This rescue was made possible through the assistance and collaboration of Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, Inyo Search and Rescue Team, and the climbing community,” the National Park Service wrote in their statement.
A French national from Fontenay-sous-Bois was located in an area known as “The Notch.” During a helicopter search, the park service spotted the “motionless hiker” and recovered Gerbier to transfer him to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office for identification.
Gerbier’s death marked the second fatality this year for the park, which is administered jointly by the service as Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Gerbier was scheduled only briefly to be in California — and had been on a stopover for his airline.
“[Air France] regrets to confirm the accidental death of one of its pilots … while he was on a stopover in Los Angeles (California),” they told the San Francisco Chronicle in a statement Friday.” The company offers its most sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.”
Mt. Whitney has fascinated mountain climbers for decades and reportedly stands unparalleled on the continent at about 14,494 feet. In 2011, 7-year-old California native Tyler Armstrong became the youngest ever to summit it.
The park service claimed on its website that Mt. Whitney is “the most frequently climbed mountain peak in the Sierra Nevada.” They also claimed that “technical climbing equipment is not usually necessary between mid-July and early October.”
It currently remains unclear if Gerbier used any climbing equipment during his trek.
CORRECTION: This article initially stated Mt. Whitney was the tallest mountain in the continental U.S.; it is the tallest in the contiguous U.S., which excludes Alaska and Hawaii.