Yesterday I posted a story about Joseph Bohlig, a 52-year old climber who fell into the crater of Mount St. Helens in Washington state on Monday when an ice shelf collapsed under him while having his photo taken atop the volcano. At the time, rescue operations were underway, but the SAR teams were having a difficult time reaching Bohlig due to bad weather. They were hoping that conditions would change later in the day, and they’d be able to reach him. Sadly, they were able eventually get a helicopter into the crater, but Bohlig was already dead when they arrived.
According to this story from the Daily Mail, a Navy helicopter discovered Bohlig’s body on its second pass through the crater, although it was already partially covered with snow. It appears that he died of injuries sustained from the fall.
On Monday, Bohlig and his friend Scott Salkovichs made the four hour trek to the top of the mountain to reach the rim of the crater. Salkovichs stepped back to take the photo, just as the ice shelf broke, and although he tried to reach his friend, it was too late, and all he could do was watch him plummet to the ground below. Salkovichs tossed a backpack down to Bohlig, but the injured man couldn’t reach it. He was alive however, as he was heard blowing a rescue whistle not long after the fall.
Salkovichs then descended the mountain and went for aid, but rescue teams were unable to get into the crater due to high winds and low visibility. They had to wait until conditions improved on Tuesday, but by then, it was too late.
Bohlig was an experienced mountaineer who had hiked to the top of Mount St. Helens on many occasions. He had plenty of knowledge of the mountain, and had plenty of gear with him as well. Unfortunately, he had discarded some of his clothes, and his backpack, when he went to pose for the photo. The resulting 1500 foot fall left him injured, alone, and without most of that gear. As is often the case in these types of stories, it’s an odd set of circumstances that helped lead to the tragedy.
I offer my sincere condolences to Joseph’s family. I’m sure they are taking the loss hard. But as his father said, he died doing something he loved. We should all be so lucky to suffer that fate.
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