The decomposing body of hiker Richard Baird, who fell to his death over a 600-foot precipice on Saturday, was airlifted by helicopter to Cumuto and removed to a funeral home shortly after 1 pm yesterday.
This was made possible after police, firefighters, soldiers and volunteers cut down eight huge trees in the vicinity of the area where the body was found on Tuesday.
The pilot from the National Operations Centre (NOC) was then able to carefully negotiate the helicopter down the precipice to where the Baird’s remains were placed in a body bag and put into a basket that was expertly airlifted and taken to Cumuto. The entire exercise was witnessed by Baird’s relatives and others who had spent several days assisting in the search.
Member of the search team told Newsday that they encountered several poisonous mapipire snakes in the Aripo forest. However, the snakes were allowed to return to the forest.
Mario Russell, head of the Fitness Walkers Club in which Baird was a member, expressed relief that the body was eventually removed. He said two police officers remained with the body on Tuesday night and he expressed condolences to members of the Baird family adding that his prayers were with them.
Russell said people who had been criticising him and members of his Fitness Walkers club for the disappearance of Baird needed to stop hiding behind their computers and try making the trek in dangerous terrain to the Aripo waterfall and see for themselves how difficult it was and the dangers involved before making any remarks.
He said Baird was given all the necessary support and assistance during Saturday’s hike but because of the treacherous terrain he could not be monitored every step of the way. Russell added that what happened was unfortunate and he, along with other hike leaders, would be meeting to discuss new strategies to ensure and prevent another casualty. Also yesterday, Kern Baird, son of the deceased hiker, said, “It was an unfortunate incident. I am saddened by the fact but we finally found my father. Now that he is out of the forest I can proceed with the final rights and preparation in the form of a funeral.”
He added, “We are now having discussions about the burial and church service which are yet to be finalised.”
Kern said he and his family did not have time to properly grieve but it would be done after the funeral. He thanked all those persons including members of the Police, Army and Fire Services who assisted in the search for his father adding that he did not have any animosity toward the Fitness Walkers Club.
Kern said the death of his father would not deter him from proceeding on any further hikes, including those hikes on treacherous terrain.
Baird disappeared on Saturday on his return to Aripo after a five-hour trek to the Aripo waterfall. When he disappeared, a search was carried out for him. When he was not found, members of the Police, Fire Services, Defence Force as well as Aripo villagers teamed up with experienced hikers and volunteers to search for Baird.
It was not until midday on Tuesday that the father of six was found 600 feet down a treacherous precipice.