Emily Sotelo's family urges donations to rescue teams that found her body

  • Emily Sotelo —Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 12/3/2022 1:34:29 PM
Modified: 12/3/2022 1:34:06 PM

The family of the Massachusetts woman who succumbed to winter weather while trying to hike the Franconia Ridge last month is asking people to donate to the volunteer organizations and rescuers who searched for her.

“In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the volunteers who risked their lives to bring her back,” the family wrote in the obituary for Emily Sotelo. They list six New Hampshire search and rescue groups that, along with New Hampshire Fish and Game, are involved in most rescues in the North Country.

Sotelo’s body was found Nov. 23, which would have been her 20th birthday, after a four-day search by many rescue teams through sometimes heavy snow and ice. Friends and family held a memorial service Thursday at Saint Catherine of Alexandria Church in Westford, Mass., where the family lived.

The obituary said Sotelo, a sophomore at Vanderbilt University majoring in biochemistry, planned to be a doctor. She played the French horn, and was a writer and mathematician who volunteered at Dream Diné, a school on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico.

“Emily’s love of nature and appreciation of its beauty led to her love of hiking,” the obituary read.

Sotelo had been dropped off Sunday morning and planned to summit Lafayette, Little Haystack and Flume mountains in a one-day hike as part of her goal of climbing all 48 of the state’s 4,000-footers before she turned 20. However, Fish and Game officials say she was not prepared for winter weather in the White Mountains and judging from where her body was found, between Lafayette Brook and the summit of Mount Lafayette, she did not make it past the first peak.

The groups mentioned for donations in the obituary are Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue Team, Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue, New England K-9 Search & Rescue, Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team, Mountain Rescue Service and Lakes Region Search & Rescue.

“Remember to hike safely www.hikesafe.com,” the obituary reads, giving the website of a Fish and Game program to educate people who go hiking in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire Fish and Game says it makes almost 190 rescues a year on average, each of which can cost many thousands of dollars if helicopters are needed. It regularly outspends its rescue budget by $150,000 or more.

The department has begun to demand payment in some cases if extreme negligence was involved – a move that can be controversial because some say it makes people reluctant to call for help if needed.

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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