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Jeffrey D. Allred, Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
A family member grieves after a 54-year-old man fell to his death in Big Cottonwood Canyon on Sunday. , Aug. 7, 2011.

BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON — A 54-year-old West Valley City man was killed Sunday during a hiking accident, police say.

Jose Hernandez had been picnicking with between 15 and 20 family members at the Ledgemere picnic area about three miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon. About 10:45 a.m., he decided to go for a hike alone, said Unified Police Lt. Jake Petersen.

"He was hiking in a pretty treacherous area — really steep, with a lot of cliffs and loose rock," Petersen said.

When Hernandez didn't return after about 45 minutes, family members went looking for him. They discovered that he'd fallen several feet and wasn't moving.

Salt Lake County Search and Rescue crews were able to hike to Hernandez's location. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police aren't sure how far Hernandez fell. He had not been using any climbing or safety equipment, Petersen said.

"This was a terrible, terrible accident," he said. "Our hearts go out to the family."

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com