• Rescuer, hiker die at Pilchuck Falls

    By: Alison Grande


    PILLCHUCK FALLS, Wash. - The family of JB Bryson tells KIRO7 that he died during an attempted rescue of a hiker at Pilchuk Falls Saturday night.

    Bryson was training with the Skagit County Search and Rescue on Saturday when two hikers became stranded nearby. Bryson’s three children were not surprised he was quick to help out.

    “The idea of being able to be outside and be an outdoorsman and also helping and making a difference in a clear and direct way was important to him,” said Kelli Bowden, Bryson’s oldest daughter.

    The family gathered at Bryson’s house Sunday night to remember the 61-year-old. “I love him and miss him and I’m always going to admire and respect his service and his commitment to the community,” said Kevin Bryson.

    The tragedy happened in a playground familiar to locals: picturesque, steep Pilchuck Falls. KIRO 7 described the fatal accident to Skagit County native Kimmy Rhoades, who hiked there as a teenager.

    "I could see that," said Rhoades.  "I know that when we went, it was (a) little more in the summer so the falls might not have been as big."

    According to rescuers, two hikers made their way down to Pilchuck Falls Saturday night.  But on their way back up, one of them, a 25-year-old man, slipped and fell 100 feet.

    His companion went back to try to help him and fell, too.  He managed to cling to a tree - and survived. Some search and rescue volunteers training nearby, raced to the scene.  As they tried to reach the stranded hikers, Bryson also fell.

    Both men died where they came to rest.

    The pain of what happened is evident for Skagit County search and rescue volunteers who helped in the rescue and Sunday's recovery. A black band covers the badge on their Facebook page, a symbol of the loss of member of a special group, those who risk their lives to save others.

    Bryson served in the Army.  He spent 30 years in the postal service, as a carrier then as the postmaster of La Conner. For the last nine years he was a real estate agent in Sedro Woolley. Bryson was very involved in his community. His daughter, Kristi Stroyan, talked about his smile.

    “He was someone people enjoyed being around.  His smile was just really inviting.” His children share that same smile.

    The Skagit County Medical Examiner will likely release the identity of the 25-year-old hiker who died on Monday.

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