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Somerset student dies in hiking accident

Somerset High School freshman Bailey Belisle died Sunday, Sept. 10, in a hiking accident in northern Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Somerset High School

A girl known for putting a smile on other Somerset students’ faces was mourned this week as community members came to grips with her sudden death on Minnesota’s North Shore.

School officials confirmed Somerset High School freshman Bailey Belisle died Sunday, Sept. 10. Authorities said the 14-year-old died after falling off a cliff at Palisade Head, located along the shore of Lake Superior northeast of Silver Bay, where she was joining another Somerset family on a trip.

Somerset High School Principal Shannon Donnelly said the couple weeks of school interaction between her and Belisle didn’t allow them to form a close bond, but that didn’t mean the ninth grader didn’t make a lasting impression.

“In the short time that she was at the high school, you could see her coming down the hall with a huge smile on her face,” Donnelly said, recalling Belisle being surrounded by a large group of friends. “She was kind of magnetic and kids loved being around her.”

In addition to playing on the school volleyball team, the principal said Belisle demonstrated gifts for music and the arts. Donnelly said Somerset Middle School Principal Sara Eichten recalled how Belisle “had the most beautiful voice.”

The girl’s death strikes a deep blow in the close-knit school community, of which Belisle had been a member since her days in junior kindergarten. She was the daughter of Corey and Rachel Belisle.

“(Her death) has made an impact on many students and staff alike,” Donnelly said. “It’s definitely a difficult day.”

Counselors from River Falls were brought to Somerset High School and the middle school on Monday. Local clergy also assisted grieving students and staff, Donnelly said, in addition to offerings from the school’s Family Matters support program.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office received word of the incident shortly after 1 p.m. A sheriff’s report said the girl was visiting the North Shore landmark with friends when she accidentally fell.

Bystanders rappelled down the cliff and performed first aid in an effort to save the girl. She was transported by Life Link III helicopter to a hospital but did not survive.

The last fatal fall from Palisade Head occurred in 2010, when a 48-year-old Hermantown, Minn., woman slipped while hiking along the steep cliff, which rises about 300 feet above Lake Superior.

Palisade Head, five miles northeast of Silver Bay, is part of Tettegouche State Park. With road access available to the top of the cliff, it's a popular destination for hikers and rock climbers, as well as for tourists who enjoy its unobstructed views out over the lake.

Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson said there is a road that takes vehicles to the top, where visitors can explore the site.

“It’s a beautiful place, but you’ve got to be careful where you’re walking and accidents happen,” he said.

A fund has been established for Belisle’s family at the New Richmond Westconsin Credit Union.

The Duluth News-Tribune, a member of Forum News Service, contributed to this report

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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