Coaldale man dies in fall along Lehigh Gorge State Park
LARRY NEFF/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Lehigh Gorge State Park rangers and Bruce Nalesnik, Carbon County coroner, are investigating the death Sunday morning of a man discovered in the Lehigh River after he fell off a cliff along the Lehigh Gorge State Park. The discovery was made just after 11 a.m.
A Coaldale man, who is president of the Summit Hill Historical Society and who authored a book on Summit Hill history, died Sunday morning after falling about 30 feet off a cliff face along the Lehigh Gorge State Park.
Lee Kenneth Mantz, 44, was with his wife, Renee, at the time the tragic accident occurred. His wife was not injured, but reportedly was transported to a hospital for treatment of shock.
The mishap reportedly happened after 10 a.m. in the area known as Penn Haven Junction, about six miles north of Jim Thorpe.
According to the coroner and state police, Mantz and his wife had been riding their bikes on the biking trail of Lehigh Gorge Park. Mantz went to the outcropping on a rock point, then got his camera to take photos of the view, officials said. At some point, he lost his footing and fell down the cliff, apparently striking his head on the cliff face.
Carbon County Coroner Bruce Nalesnik said he fell into the Lehigh River. He traveled about 100 to 200 feet down the river before coming to rest against a small island.
He was pronounced dead at the scene by Nalesnik.
Nalesnik said an autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday.
Dispatched was the Weatherly Fire Department, Kidder Township Fire Department, Lehigh & Lauzanne (L&L) Fire Department, Penn Forest Township Water Rescue, Lehighton Fire Department Water Rescue, Weatherly Ambulance and Lehighton Ambulance.
The incident happened near Trail Marker 113 of the Lehigh Gorge State Park.
Mantz was a history buff, enjoyed nature in general, and was an avid bicycle rider.
Among his final posts on his Facebook page was how much he enjoyed the Perseid Meteor Shower this past weekend. Other posts were about the two full moons in August and watching the Space Station pass.
One of his Facebook friends lovingly wrote, "I will miss your daily posts on nerdy science facts and historic places. You will be missed."
He authored the book "Summit Hill, Pennsylvania (Images of America Series)" which is available at the Summit Hill Historical Society Museum as well as on Internet book sites. The paperback has 127 pages.
The author's introduction in the book says Mantz began collecting postcards and stereo views of Summit Hill and the Switchback Gravity Railroad more than a decade ago. The images in Summit Hill are drawn from his personal collection, along with the Summit Hill Historical Society's collection, and represent the town as it was in the height of the coal-mining industry and the tourist influx caused by the Switchback Gravity Railroad.
Maxine Vermillion, a member of the historical society, said Mantz has served as president for the past three years.
"I don't know what we're going to do without him," she said. "He was really a driving force. His family was a driving force."
She added, "We really are very sad."
Vermillion said Mantz was the "driving force" in setting up the new location of the Historical Society museum.
"He moved about 90 percent of the stuff," she said. "He did an awful lot of work."
Mantz grew up in Summit Hill. His parents and grandparents were from Summit Hill.
"It's a very sad day," she said.
Some of Mantz's posts on Facebook were old pictures of Summit Hill.
He also proudly posted accomplishments he and Renee made while riding their bikes.