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Policy on ropes courses changed after death of Lambert grad

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — State officials say companies that design or build ropes courses will no longer be allowed to conduct inspections to verify their safety.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the change stems from the July 15 annual permit issued for the Ijams Canopy Experience, where 18-year-old Gregory Horan II of south Forsyth slipped and fell with a safety cord wrapped around his neck July 22. Horan died a week later.

Officials say the permit was provided after an inspection of the course July 1 by John Walker.

Walker is the founder of Bonsai Designs, which is the company that designed and built the Ijams challenge course.

Division of Workplace Regulations and Compliance spokeswoman Kim Jefferson said the policy will now require a third-party inspector to identify the designer and installer.

Horan, who graduated from Lambert High School in May, had reportedly been going through the course with his younger sister when the incident occurred.

According to, a local Knoxville ABC affiliate, Horan’s sister “looked away for a moment” while they were on the course and “when she looked back, she saw him suspended in the air, off the platform” hanging by the neck from a loop in the harness system.

Staff members lowered him to the ground a short time later and began performing CPR before he was taken to UT Medical Center in critical condition. He was not breathing and did not have a pulse when he was lowered to the ground.

Lambert officials have said Horan had completed the accounting pathway and was active in Future Business Leaders Association and the National Technical Honor Society during his time at the school.

He was remembered as a “wonderful young man who left a tremendous mark on the … community” and “will be sorely missed.”


Staff writer Kayla Robins contributed to this report.