Monday, October 3, 2011

Jewish Hiker Dies A Hero on Rosh Hashana

A young Westchester man who headed his college outdoors club plummeted to his death trying to help a fellow student cross a slippery gorge on a hike in the Adirondacks.
At first, “six out of the eight [students], including Matt, had made it across OK,” said Cynthia Potel, the mother of Binghamton University student Matthew Potel, 22, of Croton-on-Hudson, who died Friday.
“Then two [female] students were left and had trouble. So Matt, practicing his [planned] profession of being an outdoor educator, to lead and protect, went back to help.
“He was able to get one across,” she told The Post.

“But as he was reaching for the last person, he turned, lost his footing, slipped and went head-first 25 feet down a ravine.
“He really died a hero,” said Cynthia, 57.
None of the other students was injured.
The students had been on a school-sponsored day trip that began Friday morning on Mount Colden near Lake Placid, authorities said.
Matt had hoped to be home celebrating Rosh Hashanah, his mom said, “but they needed him to lead this trip.
“He planned the whole thing. He had all the maps. He did everything right,” Cynthia Potel said.
“But there was an unusual amount of wetness, rivulets, because of Hurricane Irene ... He didn’t anticipate that.
“The trail actually had been closed up to a week before the hike. Then they opened it again, unfortunately -- because it was much more treacherous than usual.”
Cynthia Potel said that after her son fell, two students had to hike to the top of the mountain to get phone service to call for help.
Responding state troopers “could not use a helicopter to get him. It was too difficult, so they rappelled down the cliff,” she said.
They wound up having to “put his body in a boat and floated him through the Marcy Dam and were finally able to get him out, thank God,” the mom said.
She said her son, co-president of the Binghamton University Outdoors Club, had been set to graduate in December with a degree in environmental studies.
“He was just a minimalist, a nature lover ... who had a car but refused to use it,” instead biking around town and wearing only used clothing in an effort to conserve, Cynthia Potel said.
“We said to ourselves, ‘They never should have opened the trail,’ ” she recalled. “But I know Matt would have said, ‘You don’t interfere with nature. You just leave nature the way it is and deal with it.’ ”

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting story, but if he planned it, why didn't he plan it for another date?