TIMBERLINE — Three climbers were killed Thursday on Mount Hood when their nine-member climbing party fell into a crevasse. Five hours later a military helicopter crashed and rolled seven times after attempting to extract an injured climber.
Despite dangerous rotor shards that hurtled toward rescuers, no one was killed in the crash. According to officials, 12 people were injured, including six on the helicopter.
It was the worst single incident on Mount Hood since seven students and two adults from Oregon Episcopal School froze to death in whiteout conditions on the mountain in 1986.
The initial accident happened around 9 a.m. as four teams of roped climbers made their way to the top of the 11,240-foot mountain. Six of the climbers were members of Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue. When one member of a four-person team slipped, his team began to slide down the mountain and caused a chain reaction that sent nine climbers sliding 250 feet down the mountain into the bergschrund, a crevasse about 800 feet below the summit that opens each spring as the snow melts, growing up to 50 feet deep and 20 to 30 feet wide.
Hood River physician Jim Pennington was descending the mountain with his son and daughter and witnessed the initial accident. He described how climbers had little chance to avoid being knocked down after the first group slipped.
“They were just going too fast. It was a domino effect,” Pennington told The Oregonian in a May 31 report by Eric Mortenson and Stuart Tomlinson.
Pennington and Dr. Steve Boyer, a member of another climbing team, stayed to assist two paramedics who hooked up ropes and pulleys to rescue the climbers.