Hunters turned out in droves for the start of West Virginia’s firearm deer season, bagging more than 20,000 animals by the end of Monday. However, for two hunters and their families in Boone County, the season opener closed with a decidedly tragic ending.
Nineteen-year-old Steven Setser and 25-year-old Donnier Barker were hunting in the Wharton area on Monday when temperatures took a sudden nosedive. The two men decided to take shelter underneath a large, but stable looking rock and started a campfire. Hours later there was a loud crack and a portion of the rock dropped on the hunters, killing Barker instantly.
“I’ve replayed it 1000 times, what I could have done different,” Setser later told WOWK-TV.
Setser survived the accident with little more than some cuts and bruises, but stated that the boulder came very close to killing him as well. The hunter said he was in a state of shock after the rock fell.
“I thought to myself—if I panic, I was scared I was going to die too,” he told WSAZ. “”I just sat there and watch my best friend die.”
Setser was able to dig himself out of the rock pile and drove an ATV back to a relative’s home. Emergency services later arrived at the scene where the rock fell to recover Barker’s body. According to local police, the heat from the campfire apparently caused the rock face to fracture. Setser, who claimed he had camped under the rock many times in the past, said it made no sense.
“That rock has been there for millions of years, you never would have thought of it just dropping,” he explained.
The rock that dropped on the two men was about the size of a small car and weighed many hundreds of pounds. Setser said the outer edge of the boulder clipped him in the head and back as it fell, but luckily he was spared the brunt of the impact. The hunters’ rifles still lay crushed underneath the heavy rock.
Officials with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) said they are investigating the accident.
“It’s sad. It’s tragic what happened. It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen, really,” said DNR officer Dakoda Chattin.
Chattin advised hunters to be aware of their surroundings and to let friends or family know where they are hunting. Regular check-ins by phone are also useful in case something happens to them in the woods and they are unable to communicate.