Columbia man dies in climbing accident at Big South Fork


COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Columbia family is in mourning after their 33-year-old son Kyle Harris died in a tragic climbing accident in an East Tennessee National Park.

Michael Fedders, a long-time friend of Kyle, said, “Kyle and I go way back. We knew each other through Boy Scouts and grew up together camping and doing all that outdoors stuff.”

By phone, Fedders told News 2, he will always remember his life-long friend as a spiritual man, “He was involved in the church and preaching was a passion of his.”

And Fedders says his buddy was an outdoorsman.

“Outdoorsman is a perfect descriptor. He loved being outdoors, more than almost anything. And the other thing he loved was people, and getting them in the outdoors. It was one of his favorite passions.”

On Sunday, Kyle Harris died in a climbing accident.

He fell at the Big South Fork National River and Recreation area.

According to Chris Derman, the public information officer for the ranger station there, Harris was free- climbing in an area near the twin arches, prominent sandstone formation in the park.

According to officials, the Columbia climber lost his grip and fell about a 100-feet to his death.

Fedders says he was initially stunned when he heard the news.

“My first thought was how? He was always cautious and knowledgeable. He loved climbing and knew to do it well, but he always said himself, climbing is a dangerous sport. He wasn’t doing anything out of line, he just made a mistake.”

According to Fedders, his buddy was instrumental in the family’s Columbia real estate business handling the agency’s marketing.

Earlier in his life, Kyle was a youth minister and more recently, according to Fedders he lead his own congregation in Columbia.

“Kyle lived a full life. He’d want people to be encouraged to get outdoors and experience the beautiful world we’ve been given. He would want people to know that.”

When asked what he would say to his buddy, Fedders paused a moment and said, “Thank You.”

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When asked why thank you, Fedders got emotional and said, “I would not have had a fraction of the experiences and gone where I have gone if it were not for him pushing me out the door.”

The funeral for Harris is scheduled to happen Friday in Columbia at the Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

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