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Parents of UK student found dead at Red River Gorge say she was an experienced hiker

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 5:17 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A University of Kentucky medical school student, now identified as 24-year-old Gabriella Smith from Alexandria, Kentucky, was found dead at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff at the Red River Gorge.

Gabriella’s family says she was an experienced hiker with a respect for nature. They say she spent time at the Red River Gorge just a couple of weeks ago.

“She wanted to go just one more time to break in her new boots that she has bought,” said Gabriella’s mother, Kerensa Smith.

Kerensa says Gabriella was planning a hiking trip out west with friends. After time at the Gorge on Monday, and with no word from her by Tuesday morning, loved ones started to worry.

“In the back of your mind, there’s always that doubt of, what if something tragic did happen,” said Randy Smith, Gabriella’s father.

Powell County Search and Rescue found Gabriella’s body at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff.

“The searchers were kind of getting the news up between themselves that they had found her, and I looked over and saw they were all talking, and my mom instinct immediately knew,” Kerensa said.

Gabriella’s parents say she just finished her second year of medical school at the University of Kentucky and was looking forward to downtime with family and friends.

“I had just within the past couple of months began to realize the, just the excitement and reward of beginning the transition into that adult friendship and I’m going to miss that the most,” Randy said.

Still, despite the family’s loss, they have this message: “I don’t want anyone to be afraid of nature because she wouldn’t want that. she would still want people to get out there and explore,” Kerensa said.

Experts with Powell County Search and Rescue say to be cautious anytime you hit the trails. While their team will answer any call for help, they say wet conditions make it difficult for rescuers to reach stranded and lost hikers.

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