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Sheriff: Illegal Bentonville guide led man who fell to his death at the Buffalo National River

"This man brings people to the Buffalo River and other parts of Newton County and takes them into some of the most rugged terrains in the Ozarks."

NEWTON COUNTY, ARKANSAS, Ark. — On Saturday, May 7, a  man from Springfield, Missouri died from a fall while hiking with a group on the Buffalo National River. The Newton County sheriff believes a Bentonville man leading the group could be partially to blame for the death.

According to a Facebook post from Newton County Sheriff Glenn Wheeler, the Bentonville man (who has not been identified) was operating a guide service without a license or insurance, and this is not the first incident the illegal guide had been involved in recently.

The National Park Services states that a Commerical Use Authorization permit is required and proof of insurance to conduct business in a national park. 

"This man brings people to the Buffalo River and other parts of Newton County and takes them into some of the most rugged terrains in the Ozarks. It appears they don’t always know what they are getting into," Sheriff Wheeler said. 

Wheeler said the guide had been involved in another recent incident, saying the man was giving a tour in April and left a woman injured in the woods.

"We responded with a full rescue team who put themselves in jeopardy to help her," Wheeler said in the Facebook post. "They do it because they love it and have servants’ hearts. But, none of that would have been necessary if this man had not led them into areas that were possibly beyond their preparation levels. Then to leave an injured ‘client’ is just absurd!”   

Wheeler said his office is working with the National Park Service to determine if the man will face any consequences for giving the "illegal" guides in the Buffalo National River. 

“This man has a responsibility to these people. He takes their money then leads them places without any kind of license, insurance or emergency plan and when something goes wrong, he apparently bails on them," Sheriff Wheeler said. "I am working with our Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to see what recourse we may have and Park Service personnel are speaking with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to see if Federal charges would be more appropriate. If state charges are a better fit, I’ll be happy to save a bed in my jail for this guy." 

Following the Missouri man's death, the National Park Service posted a reminder to hikers that they should be equipped for self-rescue, as the emergency response can take several hours to get to your location. 

RELATED: Teen dies from fall while hiking near Buffalo National River

RELATED: Hunter accidentally shoots hiker in Missouri

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