Daniel S. Park, 07-22-99

Anchorage Daily News
Sunday, July 25, 1999


By Karen Aho, Daily News Reporter

A Fort Richardson officer with extensive wilderness training fell down a rocky coastal cliff to his death Friday night while hiking to a church outing on Resurrection Bay.1st. Lt. Daniel S. Park, 25, was en route to a youth retreat at Caines Head State Recreation Area when high tide prevented him and two other late hikers from continuing along a section of shoreline trail, Alaska State Troopers said.

Michael and Heather Daigneault set up camp to wait for low tide while Park doubled back into the twilight and headed up toward a cliff ridge, About 11/2 hours later, Michale Daigneault heard a loud thud. He discovered Park's badly cut body in the water about 100 yards down the shore, trooper Rod Johnson said. Park had tumbled an estimated 150 feet.The accident occurred about 10:45 p.m. on a drizzly, gray evening fast running low on light, Johnson said. The ridge was unstable with loose scree and slick with wet vegetation, Daigneault said.

Friends said Park, a paratrooper and Army Ranger, would have had good reason to believe he could traverse the mountainside.

"He's in as good a shape as anyone I know. And he's been trained in many different survival techniques and aspects," Michael Daigneault said.

The Daigneaults, essentially boxed in by high tide on both sides, flagged down two passing kayakers, who paddled 45 minutes to the nearest campground and telephoned troopers. Troopers chartered a motorboat to the site. Park's body was released to the U .S. Army. The state medical examiner did not request an autopsy, Johnson said.The Trinity Presbyterian Church group ended its weekend retreat early and on Saturday returned to Anchorage.

Park, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who came to Anchorage with the Army in 1997, advised junior high students as a church volunteer and often incorporated the outdoors into his role.

"I saw him just a few days ago about 9 o'clock at night, all muddy, sweaty, wet, and he had been mountain biking with one of our junior high guys at Powerline Pass," said George Gilchrist, the church's pastor. "That was just his way of doing outreach and caring for our guys."

Others with the 50-member retreat had left Friday morning from Anchorage. They parked at
Lowell Point, a campground four miles south of Seward that overlooks Resurrection Bay, and set off on foot down the five-mile coastal trail.

The trail crosses low hills before descending to shore. Signs warn hikers that parts are impassable during high tide, when waters lap against the cliffs.

Park, who left after work Friday, was trying to catch up to the first group. Among them was his fiance, Stephanie Cumberlidge, another spiritual youth adviser.At Tonsina Point, he met up with the Daigneaults.

Michael Daigneault said they were somewhat concerned when Park energetically headed up the hillside with his 50-pound pack. But the issue wasn't discussed in detail."He made statements to the party just before he left that he was feeling good and feeling adventurous and wanted to catch up to the other group," Johnson said.Park was executive officer of A Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Richardson. He arrived at Fort Richardson in September 1997, first serving as the regiment's platoon leader.