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Teen who died in Zoar Valley remembered as smart, talented, and funny

Posted at 5:00 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 18:14:47-04

“I don’t know anyone else like her, and it makes it that much harder that she’s not here.”

Standing inside Gymnastics Unlimited, Coach Colton Rudloff shared memories of star athlete, Brooke Walker.

Walker died after falling during a hike in Zoar Valley on Saturday. She was 16-years-old.

The tragedy has gained national attention from outlets like ABC News and People Magazine.

Rudloff coached the Springville teen for the past four years. He said the gym has canceled practice for several days following her death, and they plan to have a grief counselor come in to help support the team.

“Not one person, you’ll never meet a single person that didn’t like her. It was always Brooke’s the best,” he recalled.

As a level nine gymnast, Walker trained between five and six days a week. She was even featured in one of our stories last year when she and three other teammates all made Nationals together. At the time, one of her coaches explained the competition was like the Olympics of her skill level.

“She sunk her teeth into this sport and really put her effort into every rotation she came to,” said Rudloff.

Walker was going to be a junior with the Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District. In a statement, the building principal said “Brooke was an amazing young lady, talented, smart, funny and athletic among countless other positive attributes. If you know the Walker Family, you know that their children are their entire world. Please know that as a school community, we will do whatever we can to offer support during this unspeakably challenging time. We know that Brooke was loved by everyone…peers and staff members alike.”

Walker’s death marks the fourth to happen in Zoar Valley in three years.

It remains under investigation. However, authorities said they received a number of 911 calls after she fell off a steep ledge Saturday evening.

We reached out to the N.Y.S. Department of Environmental Conservation to find out whether it was considering closing or reducing access to the nature preserve in light of this latest tragedy. According to a spokesman, "the investigation is ongoing regarding this tragic incident."

DEC encourages visitors to all DEC owned lands, including the Zoar Valley MUA, to be aware of the inherent risks and hazards associated with wilderness areas and to stay on marked trails. Please use caution when visiting and be prepared for your trip both with the correct equipment and appropriate trip planning. More information about Zoar Valley is available on DEC's website at https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/36931.html .

Those who knew Brooke walker are now trying to cope with her loss.

“I firmly believe that the impact she’s made will forever stick with us, and she has changed all of us for the better,” Rudloff said.