RED RIVER GORGE — A line of climbers ascended a hill on the Ky. 11 roadside Friday afternoon, some carrying flowers damp with drizzle.
The group, clad in climbing shoes and coats, hiked to remember two of its own.
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Two rock climbers, Benjamin E. Strohmeier of Hebron and Laura Fletcher of Brownsburg, Ind., were found dead Tuesday evening in the Red River Gorge area. The couple, both 18, fell about 50 to 60 feet after frayed, discolored webbing "blew out," officials said earlier this week. They were found off Ky. 11 at Emerald City, a climbing area near Natural Bridge State Park in western Wolfe County.
About 40 people from a tight-knit climbing community snaked their way uphill through trees to the memorial service held near the site where their friends were found. Once there, the group shared stories about Strohmeier, whom friends regarded as a little brother to all, and Laura, a selfless and an adventurous person.
Steve Woodward, who worked with Ben at Miguel's, a local pizza shop that catered to climbers at Red River Gorge, said Strohmeier's girlfriend, Fletcher, was a selfless person who worked in a nursing home. Woodward recalled after the memorial the time when Strohmeier and a friend were the only people adventurous enough to go on a climb with him during a particularly hot day last summer.
"(Strohmeier's) girlfriend was a really great person," Woodward said.
Dario Ventura, 24, who also worked at Miguel's, said after the memorial that he doesn't want Ben, whom he called a very experienced climber, to be remembered just for the accident that killed him.
"We want him to be known for his good traits," such as his maturity and relaxed personality, Ventura said.
"He was a little guy who was more mature than all of us," he said.