Mount Rainier, WA Glacier Collapse Kills Eleven, June 1981
GLACIER ACCIDENT KILLS 11.
Paradise, Wash. (AP) -- Eleven mountain climbers were buried when a wall of ice sheared off a glacier on Mount Rainier early Sunday and crashed frozen blocks
"the size of cars" onto a group of resting mountaineers, officials said.
Rescuers who reached the scene found no sign of life, and officials expressed little hope that any of the 11 would be found alive.
When asked if the missing climbers were presumed dead, Chief Mount Rainier National Park ranger Bob Dunnagan said "that would be a reasonable presumption.
You're buried in up to 70 feet of solid ice. I don't know of any situations like that where anybody lived through it."
Larry Henderson, a Mount Rainier National Park ranger, said a group of 29 climbers and guides was resting early Sunday morning at the base of a glacier on the east side of the 14,410-foot peak when a huge wall of ice broke off and crashed down on them.
Most of the party escaped, but 10 climbers and one guide were swept into a 100-foot deep crevasse, then buried by tons of ice, said the National Park Service ranger.
"All of a sudden, there was a crack and a snap," said one survivor, LARRY ST. PETER. "The thing I remember vividly was everybody going, 'Ooooh,' kind of like they were watching a Fourth of July display."
DENNIS ROBERTSON of Seattle, a Weyerhaeuser Co. computer area manager, said that for an instant, no one moved as the ice roared down the glacier. "Then the guides yelled to run," he said.
The spared climbers went back down the mountain. Four people who returned to the scene of the ice fall briefly saw no sign of life, not even a scrap of clothing or equipment, officials said.
The four rescuers said the falling ice left a swath of rubble 100 yards wide and 70 feet deep, said Henderson.
Veteran mountain climber LOU WHITTAKER, whose mountain guide service had led the ill-fated trek, was leading a 10-member rescue expedition up the mountain Sunday, but was not expected to reach the scene of the ice fall until Monday.
The searchers had tools for freeing avalanche victims, but may find them useless in trying to ove glacial ice, Henderson said.
Dunnagan, who said the accident was the worst in Mount Rainier's history, said
"hope is very slight because of the depth and width of the ice."
"There are blocks of ice the size of cars," he said.
Rescuers had to proceed with extreme cautioin because the area was "very dangerous and unstable," said Gary Gregory, information officer for the national park.
Army helicopter rescue crews at Fort Lewis near Tacoma were alerted but could not fly up the mountain immediately because of bad weather which restricted visibility to 50 to 100 feet, Gregory said.
He called the expedition "a routin climb" that departed early Sunday and was to return later the same day.
Henderson said the party that was hit by the Mount Rainier ice fall consisted of
"some concession guide service people and some independent climbers."
Gregory said a number of climbers were with a park concession he identified as Rainier Mountaineering, Inc., co-owned by Whittaker.
The 11 missing climbers were identified by the National Park Service as:
JONATHAN LAITONE, 27, Ann Arbor, Mich.
MARK ERNLUND, 29, Renton, Wash.
IRA LIEDMAN, 30, Hatfield, Pa.
CRAIG TIPPLE, 28, Bellevue, Wash.
MICHAEL WATTS, 36, Mercer Island, Wash.
DAVID KIDD, 30, Arlington, Wash.
HENRY MATTHEWS, 38, of Auburn, Wash.
DAVID BOULTON, 29, of Seattle, Wash.
RONALD A. FARRELL, 21, of Bellevue, Wash.
GORDON HENEAGE, 42, of Seattle, Wash.
TOM O'BRIEN, Seattle, Wash., listed as a guide.
Whittaker's son Peter was on the trek, but was among the climbers and guides who walked out, according to Dunnagan.
At Mount Rainier, rescuers from Camp Muir, at the 10,000-foot level, said they saw no sign of life when they arrived at the scene of the ice fall.
Casa Grande Dispatch Arizona 1981-06-22