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Air France pilot falls off cliff to his death while hiking California’s Mount Whitney

A pilot from France who disappeared while hiking California’s towering Mount Whitney was found dead after falling about 1,000 feet off a cliff, the National Park Service said Friday.

The hiker was identified as Tom Gerbier of Fontenay-sous-Bois, France, who was a pilot for Air France, the park service said in a statement.

He was 38, according to a missing poster issued by the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, which was part of the search.

The tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney rises 14,494 feet on the eastern border of Sequoia National Park and is a difficult but popular hike.

Gerbier started out at Whitney Portal near the town of Lone Pine early Tuesday and was reported missing when he didn’t show up for his return flight Wednesday, the park service said.

The park service and local authorities sent ground teams to the area Thursday.

The searchers spotted clues that someone may have fallen off a cliff in an area called “The Notch,” and a helicopter crew directed there spotted a motionless person in clothing matching Gerbier’s description.

The body was recovered by helicopter that evening, and the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Gerbier’s identity.

Air France said in a statement that Gerbier had been on a stopover in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“The company offers its most sincere condolences to his family and loved ones,” the airline said.

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