Man found dead after fall in the Red River Gorge

Published: Oct. 10, 2017 at 5:41 AM EDT
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Friends of the man who died in a fall at Red River Gorge are holding a tournament to remember him.

Max Suffridge fell off a cliff early Tuesday morning.

Suffridge was a fan of the trading card game Yu-Gi-Oh, and members of the online forum DuelistGroundz are holding a fundraising tournament for his funeral expenses.

A post on the forum called him "one of the original legends of Duelistgroundz."

Crews say friends hiking with Suffridge called for help around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday. Those friends told officials they were setting up camp for the night and realized Suffridge was missing. Officials estimate he fell about 230 feet off a cliff. The chief of Wolfe County Search and Rescue says it's the largest drop they have ever worked.

"We’re guessing that cliff is somewhere between 220 and 240 feet in height, one of the biggest cliffs I’ve personally been over here," said John May with Wolfe County Search and Rescue.

Crews found Suffridge's body around 10:00 a.m., but it took four and a half hours to recover it. He was from Louisville. Friends say he was in his late 20's.

After Suffridge fell, officials say one of his friends tried to rescue him. While climbing down, that friend got his hair and climbing gear caught on something. He had to cut his hair to free himself, then fell about 20 feet. Officials say that's when he climbed back to the top and called for help.

The Wolfe County Judge-Executive sent inmates from the Three Forks Regional Jail to help. Those inmates used chainsaws to clear a path to get Suffridge's body out. They also helped remove the body.

Another complication for rescuers was wet gear. Wolfe County's gear was still drying out from a rescue on Sunday so crews had to borrow equipment from Powell County.

"We had a rescue on Sunday during the remnants of the hurricane and all of our gear was soaking wet so our gear is currently in a basement with a dehumidifier running on it trying to dry it out," said May.

Investigators believe the hikers had been drinking while walking in the woods early Tuesday morning. Kentucky law prohibits alcohol on national forest lands such as the Daniel Boone National Park, but local officials say many people ignore that rule.