Hiker dies in 500-foot fall from Mount Russell

Rescue teams confirm a 56-year-old hiker from San Jose died in a fall along the eastern edge of Sequoia National Park

SEQUOIA AND KING CANYON NATIONAL PARKS – Last week’s three-day weekend brought a comforting respite for some, but it spelled tragedy for others.

The National Park Service announced last week that a 56-year-old man from San Jose fell about 500 feet from the summit ridge of Mount Russell on the eastern boundary of the Sequoia National Park. The man’s name has been withheld from the report.

One of his other two hiking partners, a 45-year-old woman from Milpitas grabbed him as he lost his balance. Instead of pulling him to safety, she fell after him but managed to stop herself after 30 feet. The third member of the party used a satellite device emergency locator beacon to declare an emergency, and then called 9-1-1.

Unfortunately, rescue crews were helping on other calls in the park. At the time of the call, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ helicopter 552 and other rescuers were engaged in an unconscious hiker from the Big Five Lakes area. Without Helicopter 552 available, Helicopter 551 from Yosemite National Park responded to the Mount Russell call. The crew managed to rescue the woman from the ledge, and transported her to Bishop where she was admitted to the Northern Inyo Hospital. She was then transported to another hospital in Reno, Nev. where she underwent surgery.

Prior to the rescue, the Yosemite team was able to confirm that the 56-year-old man died in the fall. Last week a Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks team retrieved him from the Mount Russell area, and he has been transferred to a funeral home.

The parks responded to eight separate search and rescue incidents over the three-day holiday weekend. Over the course of what is expected to be an extraordinarily busy summer in the parks, visitors to the front country and the wilderness alike are strongly urged to prepare carefully for trips, and understand completely that you may need to be self-sufficient in the event of an emergency. There is never any guarantee that rescuers will be able to reach you quickly. Understand your limits, take care of the people in your party, and always be prepared to turn back.

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