New Police Report Sheds Light on the Death of Camelback Hiker
Hanging onto a 50-foot wall of rock on Camelback Mountain, 21-year-old Jonathan Gustafson looked down and saw his friend struggling to find a place for his hand.
Clint McHale was hanging on below him. Gustafson told him to stay calm and that eventually he would find somewhere to hang on.
"I am falling," McHale said in a panic. "Grab my hand."
But his position on the mountain face made it difficult for Gustafson to reach down. Bent at the waist, he extended his arm between his legs, grabbing the 25-year-old's hand. He tried to hold on -- but couldn't.
McHale fell 40 feet to the ground, landing on the rocks and sand below.
On May 4, the two friends, formerly in a relationship, were out on their afternoon hike on the mountain -- their typical Wednesday ritual. They had hiked that area of Camelback Mountain before and impulsively decided to do some solo climbing -- with no safety equipment, according to a police report released to New Times today that contained new details of the tragedy.
Off the trail, the pair settled on a cliff about 50 ft off the ground and began to climb. Almost to the top, McHale fell. Gustafson raced down to his aid. He propped him up between his legs, checked for injuries, and called 911.
McHale was unresponsive at first, then started to move.
"Help me; my back hurts," he said over and over, according to Gustafson.
Gustafson told him to relax and meditate while they waited for help to arrive.
About 4:20 p.m. McHale was air-lifted to Scottsdale Osborn Hospital, where he died 25 minutes later. Gustafson was devastated.
Mchale lived in an apartment off of 52nd street and Van Buren and worked at a Chase Bank in Tempe.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.