published Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Remains confirmed as Gail Palmgren, Jeep removed from Signal Mountain crash site

Members of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office assist emergency personnel as they lower the Jeep Rubicon that belonged to Signal Mountain mother Gail Palmgren along the W Road on Monday.
Members of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office assist emergency personnel as they lower the Jeep Rubicon that belonged to Signal Mountain mother Gail Palmgren along the W Road on Monday.
Photo by Patrick Smith.
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  • Gail Palmgren Jeep removed, remains identified
    Emergency personnel used a winch to lower the Jeep Rubicon that belonged to Signal Mountain mother Gail Palmgren down to the W Road on Monday. Authorities positively identified the human remains found at the site to be Palmgren's through dental records. Palmgren went missing April 30.

Jeep found
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The crimson Jeep Rubicon is now at the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office crime lab where traffic investigators will try to learn why 44-year-old Gail Palmgren veered over a cliff on Signal Mountain.

Nearly a week ago, Palmgren's Jeep was found during an aerial search and on Monday, her vehicle was removed from the side of the mountain.

The same day, a team from the University of Tennessee's Anthropological Research Facility, commonly known as the Body Farm, used dental records to confirm that the remains found scattered around the vehicle were hers.

Investigators will fully examine the vehicle, trying to reconstruct the sequence of events that caused Palmgren to veer off East Brow Road about 12:25 p.m. on April 30, the last day she was seen alive. They will try to determine if a mechanical malfunction was involved in the wreck.

Palmgren's Jeep hit a boulder at the top of the mountain before going off the edge, authorities have said. The boulder, weighing about 435 pounds, also was taken off the mountain and will be included in the investigation.

On Monday, it was unclear how long the investigation would take.

Over the course of about an hour Monday, the Jeep crept down the mountain foot by foot, guided by a team of rappelers. Guided by heavy-duty cables secured around two oak trees -- one that the wrecked Jeep was resting against, the other growing at the edge of the W Road.

When it finally was pulled down to the roadway, the Jeep's hard roof was ripped away, the windshield smashed into the vehicle, and the rear crunched toward the front seats. Authorities said the damage to the vehicle showed that the force of impact was three times what it usually takes to kill someone.

Tears welled up in the eyes of Palmgren's friend, Arlene Durham, as she watched the wreckage slowly make its way through the cleared path, over brush and rocks. Loose rocks tumbled down and one of the tires with the cover, "Life is Good," came rolling down the 300-foot drop.

"I just had to be here. I had to see this. I needed it for closure," Durham told Diane Nichols, Palmgren's sister, who lives in New York but came to Chattanooga after the Jeep was discovered.

Investigators tried not to damage the Jeep any more than what occurred when it plunged off the side of Signal Mountain, tumbling over two bluffs and falling about 350 feet before coming to a rest on a steep slope about 300 feet from the W Road.

"We wanted to be very careful in extracting this from the mountain. We didn't want to do anymore damage," Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond said Monday.

Shannon Yates, of Doug Yates Towing and Recovery, the company that brought the Jeep down the mountain, said the greatest challenge was getting cables that weigh a couple of thousand pounds up the 82-degree slope to reach the scene.

"It's basically straight up and straight down," he said. "We had to find ways to use the wreckers to pull the cable up because the terrain was so steep. ... We ran a cable up above to hold it and one to winch it down and hold it."

Crews for the company, which is sometimes called to put overturned tractor-trailers back onto their wheels, "knew it would be a tough task," Yates said.

"With all the media exposure, we felt like this was something we needed to do," he said.

Among the crews that helped lower the Jeep were eight to 10 members of Chattanooga Hamilton County Rescue Service, a nonprofit that specializes in cave and cliff accidents.

Due to loose rock and 3 inches of rain expected, the W Road will remain closed the next couple of days, according to authorities.

Signal Mountain Middle/High School Principal Dr. Tom McCullough said the school's four counselors spent part of the weekend preparing how they would help students and staff members understand and respond to the situation. The professionally trained counselors are prepared to aid during such tragic events, he said, and have been dealing with the situation since April.

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klugermann said...

TypicalRedneck - I suppose they could have teleported the vehicle off the side of the mountain directly to the Inter-Galactic Crime Lab without causing any additional damage. Oh wait, that can only happen in your fantasy world, not the real one. Someone needs to back off of the caffeine while reading the morning's news.

December 6, 2011 at 8:47 a.m.
johnnys1 said...

well i guess if everything was perfect in our little world this or anything else in the news would not happen

December 6, 2011 at 8:55 a.m.
Momus said...

Way to preserve the crime scene rednecks

What crime scene? What crime has been commited? So far, and I stress 'so far', this is just a tragic accident.

December 6, 2011 at 10:08 a.m.
lookinfour said...

I'm glad there is a conclusion to this.

December 6, 2011 at 11:05 a.m.
ThinBlue706 said...

First: The "scene", accident, crime, or otherwise has already been worked. Through digital 3D mapping, photography, and evidence recovery the area has been throughly scoured for information and evidence. Second: The jeep will undergo testing in a lab for any possible failures. The jeep needs to be in the same condition as it was found, as close as possible, not perfectly. Remember there have been seven months of degredation to the parts since the incident anyway so "proving" failure of a part will be problematical at best. Third: The sheriff's department attempted the best manner of retrieval, removal by air, but this was not possible. Fourth: Please remember the majority of the recovery work is being done by volunteers. This means taking time off from work or home, paying for your own gear, and working treacherous conditions and weather. All this to have some uninformed, ignorant, sarcastic, "expert" malign them and tell everyone, "how I would do it". If these people are so smart, why don't YOU find the gonadal fortitude to strap in to YOUR swiss seat and go help?

December 6, 2011 at 11:11 a.m.
chet123 said...

There need to be an investigation!!!!

December 6, 2011 at 11:20 a.m.
wtf1234 said...


There is NO conclusion. The only conclusion is that Gail is gone and the question as to HOW needs to be investigated. It is so clear there is more to this case.

December 6, 2011 at 11:49 a.m.
shauyiandra said...

this family is in my prayers to pull them through such a tragic event.

December 6, 2011 at 12:05 p.m.
esaletnik said...

Look at the gloss and reflection on the hood of the Jeep. Did they wash and wax it before bringing down the cliff. That many months in the woods with no weathering? They ought to start leaving cars out in the Body Farm.

December 6, 2011 at 1:04 p.m.
wtf1234 said...

apparently someone did not like my comment about the boulders and the lack of possiblity that the Jeep hit the boulder because my comment was removed. HMMMMMMM?? Wonder why????

December 6, 2011 at 1:15 p.m.
Marathon5454 said...

@wtf1234 I agree with you--If she hit a 450 lb boulder as she left the road, and knocked it off the cliff, why isn't there more damage to the front of the jeep? The front of the jeep looks relatively undamaged--Did she back into the boulder? I wouldn't think so---We know that the boulder got knocked off the cliff--If she didn't hit it with the front of the jeep, how did it get knocked off? Strange

December 6, 2011 at 1:50 p.m.
ibshame said...

I don't know that much about the roads on Signal Mtn. but from what I've always heard the "W" is a well-traveled road and it can be very tricky to maneuver at times in good weather and bad weather. I don't remember what the conditions were on the day she went missing but there had been a very serious weather event in our area only three days prior to this. Could it be possible something in the road caused her to swerve and then over correct but lose control? It happens all the time.

December 6, 2011 at 1:51 p.m.
resq2106 said...

@wtf1234 and ibshame: We haven't seen the Jeep from every angle yet. It's possible that hitting the boulder with a tire could have knocked it off without showing any appreciable body damage. A lot of variables we don't know as of yet, like what shape was the rock, how close to the edge was it, etc. And it wasn't the W she came off of. it was East Brow above the W.

December 6, 2011 at 2:14 p.m.
ibshame said...

resq2106 wrote: "And it wasn't the W she came off of. it was East Brow above the W."

Sorry about incorrectly naming the road Ms. Palmgren was on but my point is still the same - rather than raising doubt or suspicion by some as to the circumstances of her death as some sort of diabolical crime, it should be thought of as a very tragic accident until there is more DEFINITIVE proof of something else. Starting a whispering campaign about the condition of the jeep and the placement of the rock serves no purpose unless one has the expertise to back it up. Give the experts time to do their jobs before anyone starts jumping to conclusions or spreading rumors.

December 6, 2011 at 2:48 p.m.
hambone said...

Sure there are experts in Chattanooga.

They are all posting on this forum!!!

December 6, 2011 at 3:20 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

Well, It looks as if everyone (me included) who thought the husband had something to do with this tragedy, owes him an apology....but it's obivous he didn't much care. One of Gail's best friends shows up at the scene but he can't be bothered to do the same? I'm SURE if he were there the TFP would have said so....

Looking at all of the questions on here about the condition of the Jeep...Hummm, makes one wonder....

I just hope the children can eventually deal with this awful tragedy...

My condolences to Gail's family.

December 6, 2011 at 3:25 p.m.
wtf1234 said...

EastRidge8 He (Gails Husband) isn't cleared yet and there are way too many unanswered questions. He obviously did not care much for his wife given his affair and how he treated her and his lack of concern for his missing wife.

December 6, 2011 at 3:56 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

If he showed up at the scene he would be the center of attention by the media and you know it. I don't blame him for staying away.

December 6, 2011 at 3:57 p.m.
jesse said...


post of the week right there!!

December 6, 2011 at 4:16 p.m.
doodad69 said...

@wtf1234: You don't know what hell she probably put him through. After all, your thought masters in Big Media said this broad had mental problems. If you've never lived with a crazy broad (you've never lived with one at all!) then you can't imagine the absolute hell it can be. So what he had an affair and went for custody of the kids in the beginning? It would keep her parents from having DFCS handing them right over to them. DFCS doesn't see fathers as anything but Mommy Supporters anyway.

December 6, 2011 at 8:29 p.m.
Dreamcatcher said...

You would think that if she hit this heavey rock and took it over the cliff with the jeep then wouldn't it have drug through the grassy patch causing big ruts in the grass. You would think someone in that area would have noticed this boulder gone and ruts leading to the edge!

December 6, 2011 at 9:23 p.m.
beetender said...

I've seen entire front ends taken out by a 100lb deer. But hitting a 400+ lb boulder that is stationary and the front end is still basically intact. Something is going on...

December 6, 2011 at 11 p.m.
nur123 said...

Dont forget about her children who are going to spend their first Christmas without their mother.

December 6, 2011 at 11:26 p.m.
TinaFrench said...

Okay DreamCatcher and beetender, I'm no Ellis Fielding, but I'll bite. What if the jeep climbed over that 20" tall rock with one front tire because the rocks, which are close to the bluff, were spaced too close together to navigate between. The jeep is 4 wheel drive, has ground clearance, and has a skid plate under it. Hit it fast enough, the jeep crosses over with the front tire, bounces back down, the rock lodges in front of the rear tire or undercarriage. As the front end is already over the edge, gravity and the weight of the vehicle would yank that rock over like it was a pebble and all is gone in 10 seconds. There's no front end damage or big ruts in the grass, and the jeep lands in a forest of trees. In previous reports, there was some evidence from the neighbors. They thought someone had stolen the rock, and the slight tire marks in the grass were from the thieves. They did not report it. My guess is no one thought a vehicle could get between those rocks, so logically, no vehicle went over the edge. All of this, of course, is total conjecture on my part. I have no other evidence than what I see and hear online and TV. I just wanted to provide a scenerio with possibilities to show that it is never as easy as it seems and hind sight is always 20/20. The investigators on this case are very professional, highly skilled and trained. They'll figure it out. All in all, it is a sad, sad situation.

December 7, 2011 at 9:27 a.m.
rolando said...

Yes, God bless the children and keep them from the clutches of the drug-prescribing Child "Protective" Services Gestapo.

December 7, 2011 at 9:51 a.m.
rolando said...

You got that right, doodad. At 44, she might have been going through the ManHell called menopause...a serious mental state in its own right.

December 7, 2011 at 9:54 a.m.

@nur123- In reference to your statement about the kids. They'll be spending it with the woman he cheated with who now lives with him and the children. Just to point out the specifics. Let's assume there was no foul play involved. Her husband cheated she was heading full speed into a seperation which very well may have seemed a loosing battle for her. Regardless of actual specific involvement Mr. Palmgren's failings as a husband contributed to this outcome without a doubt. I suppose one cannot hold individuals accountable for moral mistakes otherwise who would be left. It's still ashame regardless.

December 7, 2011 at 4:46 p.m.
lec said...

wtf1234 said He obviously did not care much for his wife given his affair and how he treated her and his lack of concern for his missing wife.

Have you walked this path before?????? When You Have Walked a mile in his shoes then and only then can you tell everyone how you would handle losting your wife!!!! And how someone should act when it happens to them!! everyone handles stress and death in diffrent ways, He would have been in an unwanted spot light if he would have went to the scene, You dont know he may of wanted to be there, but just couldn't bring himself to see that!!!!!

December 29, 2011 at 6:56 a.m.
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