Yosemite Rock Fall Kills British Man, Injures Partner; All Others Accounted for: Park Official - NBC Bay Area

Yosemite Rock Fall Kills British Man, Injures Partner; All Others Accounted for: Park Official

"You just see this huge plume of granite dust explode out from the bottom," one climber said after the chunk of rock fell

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A rock slide Wednesday along a popular Yosemite National Park climbing route left one person dead and another injured, according to a park ranger. Sergio Quintana reports. (Published Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017)

    All missing persons are accounted for following a rock fall on Wednesday in Yosemite National Park that killed a man and injured a woman, a park official announced Thursday.

    Both climbers from Great Britain were hiking at the bottom of El Capitan and gearing up to to scale it when the chunk of granite fell, according to Park Ranger and spokesman Scott Gediman. The man was found dead while the injured woman was taken to an undisclosed hospital with "serious injuries."

    The slab of rock, which is believed to have fallen near the popular Waterfall Route on the East Buttress of El Capitan, measured 130 feet tall, 65 feet wide, and three to 10 feet thick, according to Gediman. 

    Climbers posted pictures on social media from hundreds of feet up the wall showing a large billow of white dust moments after the crash.

    A climber is loaded into an air ambulance after a rock slide at Yosemite on Wednesday. (Sept. 27, 2017)
    Photo credit: Dakota Snider

    Justin Henderson and his climbing partner believe they were one of the last few people to see the couple before the rock fall. Henderson noted they had previously passed the climbers and were "just around the corner" when they saw a "massive" sheet of rock come crumbling down.

    "It was like a delayed reaction," Henderson said. "You just see this huge plume of granite dust explode out from the bottom. And then eventually that comes to us and we were just getting showered with it, just blasting us in the face."

    Canadian climber Peter Zabrok described the rock that fell as "white granite the size of an apartment building," adding that it suddenly peeled off the wall with no warning.

    Ken Yager, president and founder of the Yosemite Climbing Association, said the piece that broke off "cratered and sent stuff mushrooming out in all directions."

    Gediman, the park spokesman, said the massive rock fall was among seven that happened in the same general area during a four-hour period on Wednesday. Rescuers found no other victims after conducting searches.

    Officials had no immediate estimate for how much the big rock weighed but Gediman said all of the rock falls Wednesday weighed 1,300 tons combined.

    The park records about 80 rock falls per year, though they are rarely fatal. 

    A total of 16 people visiting the park have died as a result of rock falls since records began in 1857, according to Gediman. More than 100 people have been injured during that time.

    The last death at the park involving a rock fall occurred on June 13, 1999, according to Gediman. 

    The park remains open despite the recent rock falls, Gediman said. Visitor services were not impacted.

    The victims of Wednesday's rock fall have yet to be identified. The National Park Service is working with consulate officials to notify family members.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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