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SEATTLE Three die in rock slide



Published: Tue, July 12, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The group of six was climbing in North Cascades National Park in Washington.

SEATTLE (AP) -- Rock slides killed three climbers on a popular peak in a national park over the weekend and trapped the rest of their group on the cold, rainy mountain until rescuers could reach them Monday.

The victims were taking part in a class organized by a climbing club when the six-person group wound up the path of the rock slides Sunday in North Cascades National Park.

The group was descending when falling rocks hit 61-year-old Jo Backus of Tacoma, the group leader and one of three instructors on the climb, said park spokesman Tim Manns.

The team had moved her to a different area to provide aid when another rock slide hit them, killing Backus and two others, Manns said.

The other victims were identified as Mark Harrison, of Bellevue, and John Augenstein, of Seattle. The men's ages were not immediately available.

Sustaining tragedy

Another climber, Wayne McCourt, of Fife, was seriously injured and passed in and out of consciousness until rescuers reached them Monday morning, Manns said. He was airlifted to a Seattle hospital where he was listed in satisfactory condition Monday afternoon.

"It was a long, difficult night to make it through, and he did," Manns said. The other two climbers were not injured.

Rain overnight hindered the rescue efforts, but rangers were able to send a helicopter to the site after daybreak, Manns said. Climbing rangers remained on the scene to evacuate the three bodies, Manns said.

Steve Costie, Seattle director for The Mountaineers, said it was the respected climbing club's "worst disaster ever."




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