Autopsy of hiker to be held pending investigation - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Autopsy of hiker to be held pending investigation

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Friends and family of 20-year old UTC student Dalton Downing will wait a few more weeks before they know exactly how the aspiring personal trainer died.

Downing's body was found on a mountain bluff Tuesday morning after a six hour search. 

An autopsy into Downing's death was to be released Wednesday afternoon, but the Hamilton County Medical Examiners Office now says its awaiting toxicology results as well as the police investigation to conclude before releasing an official cause of death.

"I was shocked, I was at work when I found out, I got a text from my buddy Finny in Memphis who had known Dalton growing up, I don't know dude, it's really hard to believe," says Chattanooga's Drean Whitner, who says he became friends with Dalton Downing four years ago, as both young men skateboarded across the Southeast.

Tuesday morning, rescue crews pulled the body of the 20 year old Downing up from Signal Point.   

It's believed he fell 80 plus feet to his death while hiking.

Whitner says his friend was the outdoor sportsman for all seasons.

"He liked to skate, he liked to hike, he rode dirt bikes, Dalton was into all sorts of outdoor activities," says Whitner. 

"I slipped on a wet rock on the trail and I was by myself which was a bad idea," admits Elizabeth O'Connor, who is quite familiar with the area where Downing was found.

O'Connor is the President of the Chattanooga Hiking Club and says hiking alone, while popular for some seeking solitude, is a risk, especially in bad weather.

"If you do have to hike alone, at least let someone know which trails you'll be using , what time you expect to get out, you can't count on your cell phone to bail you out because there might not be cell reception," says O'Connor, who suggests all hikers embrace the buddy system, dress appropriately for conditions, and take snacks and water along for any trip.

She says while a cell phone can help rescuers track a lost hiker, cold weather can sap the phone's power source.  

"You may want to carry a whistle with you, because that makes a loud noise and it doesn't depend on a battery," notes O'Connor.
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