First Emails


From: Steve Hall []
Sent: Sunday, June 26, 2005 9:09 AM
To: Karen Rutherford
Subject: RE: trips

I cannot talk about it now. Legal reasons. When that is resolved I will respond.

-----Original Message-----
From: Karen Rutherford []
Sent: Sat 6/25/2005 9:00 PM
To: Steve Hall
Subject: RE: trips
Obviously, even you haven't come up with a justification for your actions.

I had to finalize this by saying that it would've been less telling had you
not sent your attempt at a diversionary reply. My judgment was obviously
dead-on because only arrogance would allow you to ever deny the
responsibility that you have to know is yours.

My reason for emailing was simply to let you know that there are people out
there who, while understanding tragic accidents, also understand the
significant part you played in Sean and Clay's deaths.

I understand people like you exist, unfortunately, I just get confused at an
entire community not speaking out loudly against its vile members who
attend, coach and discuss with reporters, soccer games 4 days after they
find the bodies of children who absolutely did not have to die, but did
solely because of your decisions.

I'm sure it is a comfort to someone like you to have Darlington (a
Christian?) school that can have such a legalistic and universal impact on
what's right and wrong in your community.

Enjoy your community award and all your future trips. I hope they, like
soccer, help get you through each morning of the rest of your life waking up
to the fact that two children died as a direct result of your arrogance.

Karen Rutherford

-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Hall []
Sent: Wednesday, June 15, 2005 7:25 AM
To: Karen Rutherford
Subject: RE: trips

I appreciate your inquiry and will respond to it more at a later time.
Believe me, arrogance is the farthest rationale for any actions since that
time.I know it is a cliche but from the outside looking in, it is always
easy to make incorrect judgments. I promise I will send you a greater


From: Karen Rutherford []
Sent: Tue 6/14/2005 8:01 PM
To: Steve Hall
Subject: trips


I live in Indianapolis. I lived in Rome for a few years in the 1990's and
still have a few friends there who share news stories with me every so
often. In March, I got "hooked" on the story of your tragic spring break
trip to Florida. I did some investigation of events on the trip and upon
your return home to Rome. What stunned me at first was how quickly you
returned to coaching soccer, encouraginginterviews from local reporters
about your thoughts on the team and how "fun" (your word) coaching them
always is (just a few days after the two boys drowned due to your neglect).
I wrote a little piece about what must be your character just to find some
outlet in dealing with the knowledge that people like you exist. I won't
stop until I find a public place for it to rest.

What continues to shock me, however, is how little Rome cares. I see on your
website that you had trips planned for March, April, May, and now in June,
July, etc., in water and out of water. I can't imagine what type of parent
would willingly and knowingly send their child off on a trip with you. I
would consider it child abuse. But somehow Rome forgets today what happened
yesterday. How fortunate for someone like you.

I suppose I'm alone in my thinking, but I just had to ask: It' s obvious
that you feel no responsibility for the boys' deaths. How do you do it? Do
you actually believe you did nothing wrong? What possible justification must
run through your mind upon waking each day? Or are you so absurdly arrogant
that you truly feel nothing?

Karen Rutherford

Egomaniacal teacher causes spring break tragedy

Steve Hall is an English teacher, founder of the outdoor education program
and head coach for the varsity girls' soccer team at Darlington, a
prestigious K-12 Christian school in Rome, Georgia. He also owns his own
company, Orr-Treks Outdoor Adventures, which has organized and led various
outdoor expeditions for Darlington students since 1984. He is known at
school as being quite the outdoorsman extraordinaire.

On Orr-Treks' website, <>, Hall touts not only his
superhuman abilities and expertise, but also his impeccable safety record:

"Since 1984 we've led hundred of expeditions over a million miles of
highways, trail, rivers and rocks with hundreds of participants without
incurring a single serious injury...."

"Our safety record is not based on luck but on good planning, a highly
skilled staff, state-of-the-art outdoor gear, and well-maintained

The last week of February 2005, Mr. Hall, accompanied by his assistant
soccer coach, led a group of eight Darlington students on a spring break
canoe and kayak trip down the Suwanee River in the northern peninsula of

His lack of appropriate preparation and arrogant disregard for the worsening
weather conditions directly and single-handedly resulted in two students'
deaths. As the leader, the expert, and one of only two adults on the trip,
only Hall can be held responsible.

On Saturday, February 26th, 2005, during a Florida storm that included high
winds and two to three foot waves, the group skirted the coastline of the
Gulf of Mexico headed north towards Coon Island.

Hall's well-maintained equipment consisted of a motorized catamaran boat
that malfunctioned, a cell phone with no service, no radio and no backup
equipment. The kids were dressed in t-shirts and shorts to canoe in 4 ½
miles of ocean. According to John Burton, a captain with the Florida Fish
and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the water temperature was 58 to 60
degrees Fahrenheit. Experts say that rescue divers in wet suits can only
tolerate water that cold for 10 minutes.

In their March 2, 2005, article titled "Hypothermia played role in death of
students", a Rome News Tribune timeline constructed from interviews, 911
tapes, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission listed the following:

Around 3pm Saturday, Sean Wilkinson and Clay McKemie were paddling in a
canoe together at the back of a convoy led by Hall in a motorized catamaran

Around 6pm, the motor in Hall's raft failed when a rope got caught. Hall
spent the next two hours tying the other canoes and kayaks to the raft,
while Sean and Clay drifted farther and farther away.

At approximately 8pm, Hall took a canoe out to look for the boys, but came
back unsuccessful.

At 9pm, Hall went back out with a student who should be
commended for his bravery and initiative. This student (who in March 2010 asked that his name be removed from this 2005 post not wanting any association with the event) volunteered (probably insisted) to go back out to look for the boys and to try to get service on Hall's cell

At 10:30pm, Hall reached his wife on his cell phone.

At 11:30pm, Hall's wife, with help from the Floyd County 911 service,
contacted the US Coast Guard who began their official search.

Just before noon, February 28th, 2005, the bodies of the two boys were found
thirteen miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

The sequence of events demands answers to the following questions:
Why didn't Steve Hall heed the weather conditions and warnings?
Why was the outdoorsman extraordinaire unable to radio for help at 6pm when
the trouble first began? Where was his backup equipment? Why would anyone,
as prepared as he professes to be, depend on a cell phone in the Gulf of
Mexico? Why would any reasonable adult responsible for eight children behave
in such a thoughtless, reckless, and arrogant way?

Why did Hall not take his cell phone on his first attempt to find the boys?
Why did Hall not instruct his wife how to contact the US Coast Guard (saving
an hour)?
And why in the world did a student have to urge the expert to make a second
attempt and try his cell phone in the first place?

Can one assume that, according to his personal high standards described on
his own website, Steve Hall considered this level of planning, preparedness
and consideration for the children for which he was responsible perfectly
acceptable? Or was he so arrogant that he didn't even have the humility to
heed the weather warnings? Or was he comparable to a habitual drunk driver
making stupid decision after stupid decision, going years without an
accident until one fatal day? Would the drunk driver's history of never
having any prior accidents be touted? Should he be praised for not killing
anyone else over the years?

It's also troubling to me how quickly the utmost of Christian entities turn
to legalism in a crisis. In Darlington High School's press release on
February 28th, 2005, President Jim Hendrix refers to Steve Hall as "a
12-year veteran of Darlington and licensed outdoor tour guide with 25 years
of experience in outdoor education." Mr. Hendrix goes on to say that "Steve
has led this trip seven times, as well as innumerable other outings through
his company, Orr-Treks." He added, "There has never been an incident
involving safety on any of his trips."

By March 4, 2005, the President and Chairman of the Board posted a letter on
the Darlington website with more details. In the second paragraph, they
mention the "hundreds of trips Steve Hall has led over the past twenty-five
years" and "the steady stream of testimonials from many of his former
program and trip participants, and their parents."

This information means two things: Darlington School wants to maintain a
safe distance from Orr-Trek and Steve Hall's luck finally ran out.

But the most disturbing part of the story is that, on March 8th, 2005, eight
days after the bodies were found and less than three days after the boys'
funerals, Steve Hall was seen by local sources vehemently and
enthusiastically coaching the girl's first soccer game after their spring
break from school the previous week.

On March 9th, 2005, a memorial for the two boys was held at Darlington. And
the following day, at the second soccer match since the tragedy, Hall was
quoted in a Rome News Tribune article, "Lady Tigers show seasoned signs,
9-0", saying, "Trying to get back to normal has really helped in dealing
with it, and the kids have been great." He added, "I was really pleased with
how they played today. That's what I like about this team - everybody
contributes, and they are a fun team to watch."

Fun. Steve Hall was having fun less than ten days after essentially killing
two teenage boys.

The following week, Christina Hall, Steve Hall's wife, told reporters that
her husband would not speak to them any further until they saw the
investigator's report. That is, he needed to keep his mouth shut until he
was found not legally responsible.

Even though no criminal charges will be filed against Hall, his moral
obligation seemingly escapes him. Where is this man's remorse, his
conscience or his sense of responsibility?

I live 500 miles away in Indiana, certainly not involved in local events or
with the local people, yet somehow more outraged than the town. As far as
I've been able to ascertain from the local articles about Hall, the people
have actually rallied around him and voiced their support.

I'd like to ask the parents of Rome, and specifically, the parents of
Darlington School students one question:

The Orr-Trek site has no mention of any cancellations of upcoming trips and,
in fact, there's a real "fun" one scheduled for Easter break (less than a
month after the deaths of Clay and Sean).

Assuming room is available, won't you sign your child up to spend a weekend
with Steve Hall?

A lot of the news links have now expired. The Darlington site links have mysteriously disappeared, along with ANY mention of Steve Hall's OrrTreks school-sponsored organization. It's like it never existed.


(Links on this blog to more information:

February 28, 2005, Darlington Press Release:
March 4, 2005, Darlington News Letter:
February 28, 2005, CNN article, "Bodies of teen kayakers found":
March 1, 2005, Rome News Tribune article, "Tragedy at sea":
March 2, 2005, Rome News Tribune article, "Hypothermia played role in death of students":
PDF of Article
March 11, 2005, Rome News Tribune article, "Lady Tigers show seasoned signs, 9-0":
PDF of Article
March 16, 2005, Rome News Tribune article, "No Charges in canoe deaths":
PDF of Article