Nathan Kanczes was on a Wilderness Camp for teens at the YMCA Deer Valley Camp in Fort Hill on July 15 when he fell off a rock during a rock climbing exercise, the Tribune-Review reported. His father was told by the camp that his son had rock climbing rappelling ropes on when he fell, according to Tribune-Review. His father was also given some details about the death of his son. He said that the state police are still looking into this incident, the news outlet reported.
According to the Somerset County police, a call came in around 12:22 p.m. about a high fall from rocks. At the scene, Kanczes was airlifted to the Conemaugh Meyersdale Medical Center. However, he did not survive his injuries and died at the medical center.
Don Stiffler, the assistant forester for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said that Cove Rocks, where the campers were during the rock climbing exercise, was an outcropping that is located in a remote area near Mount Davis. He had been working at the Forbes State Forest since 1993 and he had never heard of any accident having occurred at Cove Rocks until now. Stiffler believed that the height of Kanczes’s fall was between 40 to 60 feet. Stiffler wasn’t present but said that the campers were using climbing ropes.
The police have yet to release any information regarding the case. The YMCA Wilderness camp was canceled following the incident in order to accommodate the needs of both the campers and counselors. Tribune-Review reported that the camp would provide counseling sessions for both campers and counselors alike, and have contacted the camper’s parents in order to provide details on how to pick up their children from the camp, according to YMCA.
In a statement by YMCA, they wrote that the primary focus of their camp was the safety of the campers and they will provide the campers and counselors alike with services for as long as they need.
“Our primary concern is for the child’s family and the emotional well-being and safety of our campers and staff. We are committed to providing them grief counseling for as long as necessary and working collectively to nurture and support them during this time of profound sadness,” according to a released statement from YMCA, said the Tribune-Review.
The statement stated further that the YMCA would continue to work with authorities investigating the incident and will conduct safety protocols of the camp to ensure that this tragedy didn’t repeat itself.
According to Tribune-Review, Kanczes’s father said that his son was looking forward to becoming a counselor-in-training for the camp, and said that that his son was a “camp guy.”
“Nathan was a good kid,” his father said. “He took care of everyone.”
According to a post from the Norwin High School Band Facebook Page, Kanczes was a baritone player in the band who was going to start his sophomore year at the high school.
“Nathan was a wondering individual and will be much missed by those who knew him,” the post read. “He always had a smile on his face, a positive outlook, and was a very kind person. Please keep Nathan and his family in your thoughts and prayers. Please know that the Norwin Band staff is ready to help in any way that we can, and are ready to help and support all of our students during this difficult time.”
The post also gave details for the funeral arrangements for Kanczes. The post also provided details about the counseling available for students should they need the service. The band’s Instagram page also posted a tribute to the 15-year-old, which read, “Nathan was an enthusiastic person, and made everyone smile. Nathan was an honor student, who was also part of the Norwin Ski Club, and enjoyed tubing, riding quads, and skiing.”
A recent Norwin graduate and band staff, Nieko Disso, said that it was very upsetting to hear about the death of one of the band members, considering how close the people in the marching band were.
“Something that’s really important around here is family and this kind of a shock to wake up today and find out that a kid I just marched with, won a regional with, did great things with, is gone,” Disso said. “So for us, every student here and staff member is pretty upset about it.”
Another member of the marching band, Maria Ditoppa, recalled that Kanczes was a student who really liked to push himself.
“I’d see him at practice all the time and he’d always have a smile on his face. He would always be on the field, he would never complain about practice,” Ditoppa said. “He would always stick through the whole thing and never complain.”