Authorities identify man who died after fall from Rainbow Falls

FILE - Rainbow Falls in Transylvania County in July 2016. (WLOS)

TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) - A man has died after going over Rainbow Falls in the Pisgah National Forest, just outside Gorges State Park.

Authorities have identified him as John Shaffer, 42, of Charleston, South Carolina. Lake Toxaway Fire and Rescue Chief Carmon West says that Shaffer jumped into the water to rescue his dog.

He was then carried over the falls. Crews recovered his body Saturday afternoon, after an effort lasting more than five hours.

Shaffer was visiting Gorges State Park. His dog has not yet been recovered from the area.

On Saturday morning, a firefighter confirmed that someone had fallen from Rainbow Falls in Transylvania County.

The swift water team searched downriver, and eventually found Shaffer's body pinned against a rock.

"The water falls is beautiful. But not, they're not beautiful when we have to come rescue you," said West. "And most of the time when we have to come rescue somebody from falling over water falls, the end result is not what people want. And it's not what we want."

The park was closed earlier as crews recovered Shaffer's body, but has since reopened..

West says this is the first incident on the falls since 2016, when Rainbow Falls was the site of another tragic fatality: 24-year-old Georgia news anchor Taylor Terrell fell 185 feet from the falls. Terrell was wading in the stream that flows over Rainbow Falls when she lost her footing, and was swept over the falls by the current.

The U.S. Forest Service says the best way to enjoy a waterfall is from a safe distance. It advises people to heed posted warning signs indicating danger and stay on established trails.

Authorities also say to avoid climbing on or around waterfalls, and never play in the water above a waterfall, as rocks can be slippery, and it's easy to lose your balance, especially with bare feet.

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