Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Rugged gorge claims a life

Springboro grad had made new friends at UC

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Slinging a backpack over his shoulders, Jamie Rowland woke his roommate just before leaving Friday to spend a weekend hiking with friends in Red River Gorge.

That brief exchange between two young men who were becoming close friends would be their last.

"He had invited me and another friend to go for the weekend, but I had other plans," said McKenzie Harper, 19, a University of Cincinnati freshman from Price Hill.

"I told him to have a good weekend before he left, and that's the last time I saw him."

Red River Gorge is a 28,000-acre section of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Rowland, 18, and his friends hiked up a popular 300-foot cliff called Eagle's Peak. It's one of the highest cliffs in an area of forest called Clifty Wilderness, a rugged area designated by Congress as wilderness in 1985.

The group hiked to a scenic ledge overlooking the Red River in Menifee County to camp for the night, Kentucky State Police investigators say. They were just below a trickle of water that rushes like a waterfall when it rains.

About 3 a.m. Saturday, group members told police they heard a noise. Rowland had fallen off the cliff's edge.

"It's a common occurrence," said Kentucky State Trooper Ralph Lockard. "It's a very unforgiving area, a lot of rock formations and cliffs. Some of the trails just head right off the edge of the cliff."

As Rowland's friends prepared for his funeral today , they talked about how the Springboro High School graduate became the typical college student, studying criminal justice technologies. Not many of Rowland's friends knew that the boy who played ultimate Frisbee with them under the lights of Nippert Stadium - sometimes until nearly midnight - had an uncommon given name. It's Jamison Lee Rowland, though he went by Jamie.

Rowland was getting into flag football, friends said, and was hired by UC's police department this quarter as a Campus Watch employee. The group checks to make sure doors are locked and reports suspicious activity.

He was also in a training program through a nondenominational Christian organization called Young Life, which sends volunteer leaders into high schools across the region to mentor students.

"He was a really neat kid," said Kolia Lutow, a Young Life area director.

The first time Lutow met Rowland, the elder man was sitting at a piano, picking out a jazz song.

"He said, 'Oh, that's Dave Brubeck's 'Take Five,'" Lutow said, adding, "Whenever he was around, he made other people feel really good about themselves."

The loss hit Springboro High School's close-knit band department, too, where Rowland had been a percussionist for four years. Monday, students talked about what Rowland meant to them.

"He put a great deal of effort into everything he did,'' said band director Kirby Cain. "He was one of our top snare drum players. It's always difficult to lose somebody. We're a close group, an extended family. He was a member of that.''

Harper, Rowland's roommate, met with others on their floor in UC's Dabney Hall to talk about their friend.

"It's been tough," he said. "But we're dealing with it as much as we can. "...Everything is totally unexpected, and it hurts."

Visitation is from 4 p.m. until the time of the funeral at 7 p.m. today at Eaton, Anderson & Unglesby funeral home in Springboro. Memorials can be made to Interfaith Hospitality Network of Warren County, 203 E. Warren St., Lebanon, Ohio 45036.




Enquirer contributor Sue Kiesewetter contribute. E-mail kgoetz@enquirer.com

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