Appalachian Trail hiker’s death ruled as accidental drowning, Vermont State Police report

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KILLINGTON — Vermont State Police have released new details regarding the death of Robert Kerker, a 67-year-old hiker from Rhinebeck, New York, whose body was found along the Appalachian Trail in Stockbridge on July 28.

Preliminary determinations from the Vermont Chief Medical Examiner’s Office suggest the cause of death was likely accidental drowning. According to reports, Kerker was caught in the current of a brook during a storm-related flooding event while hiking the Appalachian Trail.

The search for Kerker began after a witness reported seeing him at the Stony Brook Shelter on the trail on the night of July 9.

The severe rain and flooding that began on July 10 elevated water levels on the Stony Brook and made the trail’s crossing of the stream dangerous. Kerker had not been seen following the encounter.

On Friday, July 28, search crews located Kerker’s body approximately 1.5 miles downstream from where the trail crossed the brook. Crews from the Vermont State Police Search and Rescue Team, Killington Search and Rescue, the Killington Police Department, the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, and New England K9 Search and Rescue participated in the recovery operation.

Kerker, an experienced hiker, began his trek on the Appalachian Trail on June 1 in Bear Mountain, New York.

Initial investigations indicate that his death was related to the severe flooding and is not considered suspicious.

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