JASPER, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A man from Springfield, Missouri died from a fall in the Indian Creek drainage of Buffalo National River on Saturday, May 7.  

According to a press release, Buffalo National River’s dispatch center was notified of a hiker who had fallen near the Eye of the Needle in the Ponca Wilderness. Brad Lee Thomas, 46, was hiking with a group in this undeveloped wilderness area when he fell approximately 20 feet.

Dispatchers were advised that Thomas was unresponsive and that CPR was in progress. Witnesses conducted CPR and rendered aid until rangers and first responders arrived on the scene. Emergency crews continued CPR for over two hours but it was unsuccessful and the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

In a report released on Monday evening, Sheriff Glenn Wheeler of the Newton County Sheriff’s Office said that the man was part of a group being led by a man from Bentonville that was discovered to be operating a guide service without a license or insurance, and that “this was not the first incident the illegal guide had been involved in recently.”

“This man brings people to the Buffalo River and other parts of Newton County and takes them into some of the most rugged terrain in the Ozarks. It appears they don’t always know what they are getting into. Just last Saturday, a person he was leading was injured and he left her in the woods. We responded with a full rescue team who put themselves in jeopardy to help her, just like they did with Mr. Thomas. They do it because they love it and have servants’ hearts. But, none of that never would have been necessary if this man had not led them into areas that was possibly beyond their preparation levels. Then to leave an injured ‘client’ is just absurd!

Sheriff Glenn Wheeler, Newton County Sheriff’s Office

Rangers have responded to multiple hiking accidents in the Indian Creek drainage over the past month, according to the report. Sheriff Wheeler said his office is working with the National Park Service to determine the best course of action.

“The areas he is taking these people to are no joke. They are rugged, treacherous and dangerous,” the Sheriff added. “He is not a legitimate guide and has no business leading these people to places where they can then be injured or killed and then leaving them on their own and risking the safety of emergency personnel.”

The National Park Service says hikers should be equipped for self-rescue, as emergency response can take several hours at the location.

For more information on trails in the park, visit the website located here.

This story has been updated with additional information provided by the Newton County Sheriff’s Office.