Mystery death of hiker 23, who plunged 50 feet at popular Appalachian Trail spot during stop for breakfast

A HIKER plunged 50 feet to his death at a popular Appalachian Trail spot after "slumping forward" during a stop for breakfast, his devastated friend has revealed.

Paul Classen, 23, was found dead on Sunday morning after fire crews and police rushed to the scene at McAfee Knob.


It's not clear what caused Classen, who was originally from the Netherlands, to fall.

But his friend Robyn Urdaibay said he had been eating breakfast when he "spontaneously slumped forwards and fell".

Posting to Facebook, the friend added: "He was sitting at the edge of the cliffs past McAfee with his feet on a lower rock, not right on the edge, not posing for a photo, and not on the knob itself.

"He spontaneously slumped forwards and fell. He was totally well, just chilling eating breakfast."

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Robyn added: "We think he must have passed out, but we don’t know why and will never know for sure."

Officials confirmed they were called at 6am on Sunday morning to the McAfee Knob summit to reports "of a male in his 20’s who had fallen from the top of the mountain."

Roanoke County Fire & Rescue Department said in a statement: "The subject fell approximately 50 ft.

"Three all-terrain vehicles, and about 30 fire and rescue personnel and 3 police officers were used in this rescue operation.

"The rescue team reached the injured subject at about 6:54 a.m., rendered aid and began to carry him back up to the top of the summit.

"The terrain in that area is extremely steep and rocky."

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The fire department added: "Initial rescuers were joined by a wilderness medicine doctor from Carilion and other rescuers who helped to carry the subject to an all-terrain vehicle and ultimately to a waiting medical helicopter for transport to Roanoke Memorial Hospital."

Eyewitness Matt Johnson, 40, told The Roanoke: "Paul’s trail family really came together and did all that was possible to attempt to save him.

"They kept him still and calm, talked to him the whole time we were waiting on rescue."

Paying tribute, Paul's friend Robyn said: "He was our friend, and the most lively, empathetic, personable, fun and goofy guy you could ever meet."

The death follows the extraordinary rescue of three hikers after their pal fell 300ft to his death from a cliff edge.

Jerardo Huitzil, 25, tragically tumbled down the rockface near Paseo Del Mar in Palos Verdes Estates, California, last week.

In a separate incident, chilling photos found on missing hikers’ camera show mysterious final moments before girls vanished in Panama jungle.

Kris Kremers, 21, and Lisanne Froon, 22, went for a walk through the scenic forests around the Baru volcano in Boquete – and never returned.

In Utah, an abandoned car led investigators to the body of a 63-year-old man.

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That chilling find below the rim at Grand View Point was investigated by the National Park Service and San Juan County.

And in Arizona, the harrowing last call of a lost hiker reveals he didn't follow instructions to stay in place before he was found dead.

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