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Arizona woman spreads message of safety after losing brother in tragic hiking accident

Posted at 4:00 AM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 10:01:55-04

PHOENIX — Ten years ago this month, Chelsey McHale lost her brother, Clint, after he fell while hiking off-trail on Camelback Mountain. Since then, Chelsey has made it her mission to spread her message of hiking safety, hoping it will save lives.

"He gave the best advice. People said he was wise beyond his years. And he was. He was an old soul," explains McHale.

McHale hit the lottery when it came to big brothers: smart, caring, active -- Clint loved life and loved hiking even more.

"As he got older, he really got into hiking. In Arizona, there are so many beautiful mountains to hike here. And he started loving Camelback."

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Until everything changed, just days before her graduation from Northern Arizona University.

"I got this knock on my door saying there was an emergency with my brother and to call this number. I thought it was a joke because he was such a joker."

But this was no joke.

On May 4, 2011, Clint went off-trail with a friend without the proper equipment and plunged 50 feet to his death.

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"It's very surreal saying it's been a decade that he's been gone. It has been 10 years without his laugh, smile, his advice."

But in that ten years, McHale has been busy, working alongside the City of Phoenix, Valley firefighters, and even going undercover at Arizona resorts to see what exactly they were telling tourists about the dangers on our trails.

"His death was so preventable. It shouldn't have happened. He shouldn't have been going off-trail. He shouldn't have been climbing without safety equipment. But he was such an avid hiker. He was so in shape. He got to his head. He thought he was invincible."

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She even pushed the City to add a sign on Camelback, reminding people of what could happen. McHale says even if it saved just one life, it's worth it.

"I've sat by it and I've seen how people bring their kids up to it and they say, 'read this, learn from it.' Or I've seen people look at it and say, 'hey we don't have enough water, we should turn around'...I definitely didn't want my brother to die in vain. I didn't want this to happen to somebody else."

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