Man killed at Albion Falls slipped while taking photographs: friend

Michael Lane, a Toronto-based photographer in his early twenties, was confirmed by several friends as the victim in Saturday's accident.

Michael Lane, a Toronto-based photographer, was confirmed as the victim in Saturday's accident by friends

Michael Lane was a talented portrait photographer based in Toronto. A friend confirmed he was killed by an accidental fall at Albion Falls in Hamilton. (Facebook/Meghan Chartrand-Burke)

A man in his early twenties killed at Albion Falls over the weekend was a talented photographer based in Toronto who lost his footing while taking pictures of the falls, said a friend.

Michael Lane, a freelance photographer and photography instructor, was identified as the victim of Saturday's tragedy by a close friend who says he was with him at the time, and was speaking on behalf of the family.

He was my friend, a part of an extended family, and I'm torn up from what has happened, and what pain this has brought to so many of us.- Blake Zimmerman, a friend who was present when Michael Lane died

"Michael was out with myself, and two others at Albion Falls in Hamilton," said Blake Zimmerman in a Facebook post published on Monday.

"In a tragic accident, Michael fell from the cliff side, in what we thought was an older trail. He was pronounced dead at the scene."

The Hamilton Fire Department confirmed the fatality happened at about 5 p.m. and two other people in the group had to be rescued by rope. 

Zimmerman said the family has asked for privacy at this time.

"He was my friend, a part of an extended family, and I'm torn up from what has happened, and what pain this has brought to so many of us," he said in the post.

Condolences pouring in

Friends and family members, many of whom Lane had taken professional portraits for, shared his work on social media in tribute to a talented young man.

Lane's ex-girlfriend, Tiana Rae Hook, 22, said she has been in touch with friends who were there at the scene and confirmed Lane died because he "fell off a cliff... at Albion Falls in Hamilton."

He was apparently taking pictures of the falls and moved slightly to get a better angle. He just lost his footing and just fell... it was immediate.- Tiana Rae Hook, friend and ex-girlfriend of Michael Lane

"He was apparently taking pictures of the falls and moved slightly to get a better angle. He just lost his footing and just fell... it was immediate."

Other than saying they were on an older trail, Zimmerman does not want to talk about what happened, but disputes Hook's version

Hook, who lives in PEI and has known Lane since she was 12, said he was known for being selfless.

"He lived for being someone's knight in shining armour. He was always out to save people," she said.

She said that she and Lane had spent long hours talking and texting, and he would be dearly missed by so many.

"He told me, when I die, I don't want to be remembered for who I am, but for what I do. I don't takes pictures just to capture an image. I take memories, good and bad. I see people in different ways than most. That's what I want to be remembered by."

Safety concerns persist

Hamilton Fire spokesperson Dave Forster said there had been three rope rescues in 2017 prior to this incident.

One of them took place the previous Saturday when Hamilton Fire performed a rope rescue on a woman at Albion Falls. 

Last year, 2016, saw a spike in rope rescues at Hamilton's waterfalls. Emergency crews performed 25 rope rescues—the largest number in at least seven years. 

Six of those were at Albion Falls.

Local activists have been vocal about the lack of safety measures taken along the trails at Albion Falls, including trails that are deceptive. 

"Claiming that everyone that's fallen at Albion Falls is an idiot, or climbing waterfalls, or a risk taker is just pure victim-blaming," said Corey Dixon, 21, who was involved in a similar accident near the falls last year, and runs a Facebook group calling for officials to make Albion Falls safer for visitors.

He says despite signage saying otherwise, there is no "main trail" at the Falls, and less experienced hikers are often "blindsided." 

"There are several little trails leading to falls, but not a lot of people know where the trail ends, and the cliff is deadly close to the trails."

Dixon, who slipped on black ice at the foot of the staircase near Albion Falls and fell 12 metres last year, broke his back and other bones, shattered his arm, and had a concussion and a brain bleed. 

Committee meets to discuss safety at Falls

Hamilton Fire Chief David Cunliffe, on the other hand, said the city had done a good job with signage and protecting against what potential outcomes could be.

"The bottom line is that we need people to adhere to the signage and stay on the pathways when they're out hiking."

He referred to a group convened by Ward 6 Councillor Tom Jackson with emergency response officials and the Hamilton Conservation Authority, that met yesterday for the first time to discuss how the city can make Albion Falls safer for visitors.

Cunliffe said he was looking forward to see the committee do its work and figure out what measures need to be taken.

Clarifications

  • The story was amended to add that Blake Zimmerman disputes the account of what happened by Tiana Rae Hook
    Jun 14, 2017 5:05 PM ET