Boone Quarries looking at safety after teen's fatal fall

Friday, December 2, 2011 | 6:06 p.m. CST; updated 4:24 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 3, 2011

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COLUMBIA — Changes could be made to Boone Quarries as the result of the recent fatal fall of James Hickem III.

Hickem, 17, whose body was found in Boone Quarries, fell from a cliff in a heavily wooded area with low visibility, according to the investigation report from the Columbia Police Department.

The report stated that Hickem fell from a height of approximately 90 feet. The teenager suffered a serious head injury, assistant medical examiner Eddie Adelstein said.

Hickem had been at the Cosmopolitan Park skate park Nov. 11 when he ran from police toward the quarry.

Officer Robert Hardt chased Hickem for 50 yards before stopping the pursuit. Other officers responded to help look for Hickem.

As officers continued the search, a man driving on Parkside Drive stopped and told Sgt. Harlan Hatton that he had just seen someone jump the fence that separates the park from the quarry, the report stated.

Hatton jumped the fence into the quarry side. He searched for about 200 yards before deciding that because of the steepness of the slope, it wasn't safe to continue searching for Hickem. 

The Police Department uses safety priorities when evaluating situations, Sgt. Jill Schlude said in an email. They are, in order of importance: hostages; innocent, uninvolved persons such as witnesses, police officers and suspects.

"In this situation Sgt. Hatton determined it was too dangerous for him to continue searching for the suspect," Schlude wrote.

Schlude said that if Hatton had kept looking for Hickem, he would have been putting Hickem's safety over his own. Since there were no threats to uninvolved people, continuing he search for Hickem would have violated those priorities, she said.

Hickem might have hidden and ambushed Hatton, who didn't know at the time whether the teenager was armed, Schlude added.

She also pointed out that, according to the report, Hickem had time to send at least one text message after he was chased by the police. The teenager texted his ex-girlfriend, Elizabeth Bopp, at 4.55 p.m: "they worried about me now LOL so hopefully youre good." 

The distance between where Hickem began running and where his body was found was 517 yards, the report stated.

During the chase, several officers saw how close the quarry was to the place where the teenagers were approached by the police and how the ledge of the cliff from which Hickem fell was obscured by thick brush and branches.

"There was a crevice in between two parts of the cliff which someone could have easily slipped through without seeing it," Officer Cyndi McLane wrote in the investigation report, after she visited the area where Hickem's body was found.

Mike Griggs, park services manager at the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department, said Cosmo Park is safe, adding that it would be unreasonable to consider the park, which is roughly 100 years old, unsafe because of a single incident.

Tim Woodard, quarry manager of Boone Quarries, said the business uses fencing about six-feet tall around the quarry and signs that say, "Danger: No trespassing" as safety measures. The fence around the quarry is "some distance" from the ledge, he said. It does not border the edge of the quarry.

But Boone Quarries will take a look at its safety measures to see if they could be improved, Woodard said.

"We constantly reevaluate everything, as any incident happens," he said. "So, yeah, (administration) will look at what else needs to be done."

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chris peters December 3, 2011 | 7:29 a.m.

17 years old. That's to young to die. What a tragedy. Unfortunate accident. I'm sure this is tough on his family and friends.

(Report Comment)
Jason Entermyer December 4, 2011 | 9:26 a.m.

Typical Missourian (or even Tribune) article trying to drum up some controversy over a terrible accident. Sometimes, no one is at fault except for the person that got harmed. I'm sure Mr. Hickem was trying to slip by the police just below the edge of the brush line and slipped. However, that story doesn't sell newspapers.

...and you can't stop people from posting stupid comments on blogs either.

(Report Comment)
lindy leonhard December 9, 2011 | 1:31 a.m.

wait til its your child....

(Report Comment)

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