Coastline eroding at site of hiker's death

A veteran hiker said the section of the East Coast Trail along Tors Cove is safe to use, but she has strong reservations about a nearby cliff where a young man died.

Police, trail association urge people to stay on trail

Experienced hikers describe off-trail area as dangerous, reports Robyn Miller 1:46

A veteran hiker says the section of the East Coast Trail along Tors Cove is safe to use, but she has strong reservations about a nearby cliff where a young man died Monday.

The 19-year-old went over the edge in an area known as Tinker's Point while hiking with four friends. Searchers found his body on the rocks beneath the cliff.

A Coast Guard vessel and helicopter were dispatched, but members of the Witless Bay Volunteer Fire Department spotted the body, and climbed over the rocks to retrieve it.

Fern Burke says the jutting meadow at Tinker's Point is too dangerous to hike. (CBC )

Fern Burke, a Tors Cove resident who regularly hikes that section of the East Coast Trail, said the route is generally safe and easy to navigate.

"It's got very few areas where you have to worry about," said Burke.

But she said the nearby meadow at Tinker's Point should be avoided because the land that juts out is eroding.

"It's surrounded by very sharp, high rocks … it's a dangerous place," Burke said in an interview. "Especially I find in the last several years a lot of that coastline has eroded. Tinker's Point [is] gradually falling into the sea."

Burke said she has changed her walking habits for fear of the ground giving way in the area.

"Now, when I walk there, I don't walk at the tip. I stay in from that area just in case because ... with the seas [the way] they've been the last few days, they're making it extremely dangerous."

Cpl. Tracy Horwood of the Ferryland RCMP detachment said the young victim was about two metres off from the trail when he fell from a steep cliff.

RCMP Cpl. Tracy Horwood says hikers use the trail at their own risk. CBC

"It's certainly a dangerous practice," said Horwood. "Obviously the trails are put in a particular place for the safety of anybody using the trail, and people who use the trail have varying degrees of ability as well, so it's one of those things you do at your own risk."

Horwood added that she hopes other hikers will remember the tragedy and take extra precautions on the trail.

The East Coast Trail Association, the non-profit group that manages an extensive run of hiking trails, extended its condolences to the family of the young man, who has not yet been identified by police.

"We've gone out today to look at that section of the trail itself," said Randy Murphy, the association's president. "The accident occurred on the coast, the trail is well back from that location, so there's no immediate danger to any hikers walking on that trail."

Murphy said his group conducts maintenance on the entire trail system twice every year.

He said he's been in contact with the RCMP to offer any assistance they might need.