A 42-year-old man died on Saturday while trying to rescue his dog after the pet wandered close to a waterfall in North Carolina, PEOPLE confirms.
John Shaffer, of Charleston, South Carolina, was out for a hike with his wife and their dog around 10 a.m. local time in Pisgah National Forest when the dog found itself too close to Rainbow Falls, Lake Toxaway Fire Chief Carmon West tells PEOPLE.
“The dog got into the water and got in trouble,” West says. “The man got into the water to get the dog and they both fell over.”
The pair fell about 150 feet, West says. Fire officials responded to the scene around 10:30 and found Shaffer’s body within 20 minutes, West tells PEOPLE. However, due to the rough terrain, it took rescue teams six hours to recover the man’s body.
West says Shaffer died of blunt force trauma to the body, adding that the man’s wife was in a state of shock.
“She was in a state of disbelief,” West tells PEOPLE. “She didn’t want to believe what had just happened. She was stable emotionally, but didn’t want to believe what happened.”
Rescue teams have not been able to find the couple’s dog.
In the wake of the incident, family and friends have remembered Shaffer in a series of Facebook posts.
“Even though I didn’t know John very well my heart is so heavy from the tragic accident in our family,” one person wrote on Sunday.
Another wrote in a post: “To those who were fortunate to know John this comes as no surprise. He was loyal and giving. This is tragic and he will be missed.”
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One woman described Shaffer as a “wonderful cousin” and “a wonderful man.”
“I will always love and miss you John Mark,” she wrote on Sunday. “I am so deeply saddened by this horrific tragedy. Please pray for the Mabie/Shaffer families.”
West says that Shaffer’s death marks the first since 2016, when a news reporter from Atlanta fell over the falls. The 24-year-old, Taylor Terrell, fell 185 feet after she lost her footing while wading in a nearby stream, according to the Associated Press.