Search for Grand Teton climber resumes after rescue of 16 others during storm

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Grand Teton search for climber resumes

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — Rescue workers resumed a high-altitude search Thursday for a climber who disappeared during a fierce thunderstorm that forced park officials to remove 16 other hikers from an exposed mountainside.

Three rangers who spent the night on Grand Teton mountain began searching at daybreak and more rangers were to join in the search during the day, park spokeswoman Bobbie Visnovske said. A helicopter was assisting in the effort.

Teams on Wednesday used helicopters to rescue 16 injured climbers in three separate groups from elevations above 13,000 feet on the mountain.

All the climbers suffered injuries from lightning, and included burns and neurological effects such as numbness, park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said.

The groups were climbing the 13,770-foot Grand Teton mountain when severe lightning hit the area.

Suspended from helicopters by rope, rangers plucked the climbers from the mountain and carried them to aid stations at lower elevations. On Wednesday night, the climbers notified emergency officials of a 17th climber who had not been accounted for, Skaggs said.

“He did go over a cliff. His climbing party lost sight of him, which sounds quite serious. But his condition is unknown at this point,” Skaggs said late Wednesday evening.

The climber disappeared off the west face of the mountain, she said.

“It’s vertical terrain. It’s possible that he fell some distance,” Skaggs told The Associated Press.

The climbers’ identities and hometowns weren’t available, Skaggs said.

Nine climbers were taken to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, said hospital spokeswoman Karen Connelly.

The hospital discharged three of the patients and transported a fourth to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center for treatment of potentially serious injuries. The five others were being evaluated Wednesday night, Connelly said.

“All of the patients that we saw were evaluated and treated for injuries related to lightning strike, and those injuries included minor trauma and burns,” Connelly said. “Most of the patients are in fair to good condition.”

Connelly said some of the rescued climbers had declined to go to the hospital.

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