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Woman killed in park fall identified

PILOT MOUNTAIN — The name of a Durham woman killed in a fall last Monday afternoon while climbing at Pilot Mountain State Park has been released.

Miriam Cho, 30, who was employed as a project coordinator at Duke University, had been at the top of a popular spot at the park known as the “Wall” when she fell 90 feet to the bottom.

The woman was unresponsive when emergency crews arrived on the scene and attempted lifesaving measures including CPR, with the climber pronounced dead at the scene.

Exactly how she fell still wasn’t determined officially as of Friday. “That has not finished being investigated,” a spokeswoman at the park said Friday morning when confirming the identity of the victim.

However, nothing about the incident suggests any kind of foul play, according to Surry County Medical Examiner Kevin Key.

“It all appeared to be just an accident — an accidental fall,” Key said Friday afternoon.

Park Superintendent Matt Windsor has said that the Durham woman accompanied a group of friends to Pilot Mountain to visit a cliff top climbing routes area below the summit overlook. Cho was with one other person when she fell in a section of the park which features its highest climbing peaks.

Cho had made it to the top of the rock wall she was climbing and started to rappel back down when the fall occurred, said to be possibly due to an equipment issue such as a clip not being fastened properly.

The official cause of death was blunt-force injuries, the medical examiner said.

Last Monday’s incident marked the first climbing-related fatality at Pilot Mountain State Park since July 2012.

“A trailblazer”

Cho had an extensive academic background that included graduating cum laude from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies in 2014, according to her LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a business and employment-oriented online networking service where users list their various credentials.

The fall victim later received a master of divinity degree from Duke Divinity School in Durham in 2020 as a magna cum laude graduate and was interested in preaching. She earlier studied at Korea University and also spent time at institutions of higher learning in Japan, London and China, the LinkedIn profile shows.

In addition, Cho was self-employed as a freelance writer/editor/producer. “I am passionate about creating and supporting media that empowers voices often not heard,” she stated in her profile

The victim’s identity was withheld in the immediate aftermath of her death so all her family members could be notified, who based on information in Cho’s obituary included some relatives living out of state.

Those who knew Miriam Cho have posted online comments about her loss and what she meant to them.

“Miriam was kind, funny, brilliant, thoughtful and a trailblazer,” one woman wrote.

“She was an adventurous, interesting and beautiful person.”



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