All Sections

Home | Public Safety

Conn. man falls 250 feet to his death from atop waterfall on Cannon Mountain

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 23. 2018 10:04AM
Cannon Mountain opened the first aerial passenger tram in North America more than 80 years ago. Sunday morning one of the trams was used to carry Zachariah Petersen's body off the mountain. The 23-year-old Connecticut man fell about 250 feet from the top of a waterfall near the tram, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game. (John Koziol/Sunday News Correspondent)

Zachariah Petersen

FRANCONIA — A Connecticut man fell to his death while camping on a ledge next to a 250-foot waterfall on Cannon Mountain, authorities said.

Zachariah Petersen, 23, of Jewett City, Conn., fell from just above the waterfall around 11:15 p.m. Saturday, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game officials.

Petersen and a friend set up a tent atop the falls around dusk, about an hour after they arrived at Cannon. They then hiked a quarter-mile along Tram Brook, Fish and Game Lt. James Kneeland said Sunday afternoon.

"I think they were just looking for a place off the beaten path to set up a tent," Kneeland said.

It wasn't clear what caused Petersen to fall, although Kneeland said both men drank "a considerable amount" of alcohol before the accident. Kneeland said the two were camping in an unauthorized area; the ledge they chose sloped slightly down toward the falls.

"Anywhere else around there would have been difficult to set up a tent because of the thick vegetation," Kneeland said. "There's all kinds of moss and it's very slick up there."

Petersen's friend, Garrett Gralton, ran back down the trail and pulled Petersen's body from the brook, which runs parallel to the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tram. He then ran to the parking lot and flagged down a vehicle.

"It took him a long time to navigate from the top of the falls around down to the bottom, where he could locate his friend," Kneeland said. "He had some rugged going to get help up there. It was a quarter-mile or so down to the Cannon Mountain parking lot, over a lot of really rugged terrain and he did so in his bare feet."

Gralton told investigators that he and Petersen grew up together in Connecticut and drove up to New Hampshire to camp out and celebrate Gralton's recent birthday, Kneeland said.

"They were just going to tent and hang out and spend a day or two," Kneeland said. "They didn't have an itinerary where they were going to hike a mountain or do anything like that."

Although they were properly equipped for the conditions and temperatures, which dropped to 38 degrees overnight, the spot they chose was next to a sheer drop.

"When you're looking for a place to tent or camp, it's probably better to just use one of the legal campgrounds that are located in and around the White Mountains," Kneeland said. "They're developed for a reason — on level ground in areas that are much safe than what these two encountered."

Gralton was able to flag down a passing car and call for help after running down the brook. Franconia Notch State Park personnel were able to operate the tram and get rescue crews near the area where Petersen fell and retrieve his body, Kneeland said.

Outdoors Public Safety Franconia

More Headlines

Dansereau gets prison for car chase