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Climber’s family sues County for negligence and wrongful death posted on 06/02/2018

John Jenkins, 32, of Seattle, was the 106th recorded climbing death on Mount Hood, and the first in nearly two years.

He fell from the Hogsback ridge May 7, 2017, skidded approximately 600 feet and was later pronounced dead at a Portland hospital, as reported in The Mountain Times in the June 2017 issue.

One year hence, Clackamas County, Clackamas County Sheriff and Clackamas 911 have been named as defendants in a lawsuit involving the climber’s death.

“First and foremost, the county wants to extend condolences to the Jenkins family,” County Public Information Officer Tim Heider wrote in a May 15 county press release. “Climbing the wilderness area of Mount Hood is an inherently dangerous activity that sometimes results in the loss of life. When all the facts are presented, the county is confident they will show that the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and our C-COM 911 Department responded appropriately to this tragic accident.”

The Jenkins family suit claims that the death could have been avoided, saying the rescue helicopter arrived too late. The suit seeks $5 million in noneconomic damages and $5 million for loss of future income, plus costs and disbursements in an amount to be determined, citing the rescue was a case of negligence and wrongful death.

The lawsuit, filed by Portland attorney Jane Paulson in Circuit Court, states that “Clackamas County 911 transferred the call to CCSO. Connie Haider from the CCSO did not call for help and told the caller to contact Timberline ski patrol despite being told the climber was a climber, not a skier and was outside the ski area.”

The first call came in at 11:26 a.m. of the climbing accident, according to information The Mountain Times received from the CCSO.

According to the lawsuit, “at approximately 10:48 a.m. a call was received by Clackamas County 911 reporting the fall and Clackamas County 911 transferred the call to CCSO. Connie Haider from the CCSO did not call for help and told the caller to contact Timberline ski patrol. At 11:25 a.m. a call was placed by Timberline Ski Patrol to Clackamas County 911 (which) transferred the call to CCSO. At 11:37 a.m. Portland Mountain Rescue (PMR) asked Timberline Ski Patrol to request a helicopter. At 12:11 p.m. PMR told CCSO that a helicopter was needed. At 12:29 Oregon Emergency Management called Oregon National Guard to request a helicopter. At 3:11 p.m. the helicopter arrived at the scene. As the helicopter arrived and attempted to secure plaintiff into a basket and lift him to the helicopter, he stopped breathing and lost his pulse.”

The lawsuit continues, claiming defendant Clackamas County was negligent in one or more of the following particulars: (a) in failing timely request of a helicopter to the fall site; (b) in failing to tell the climbers and rescuers to do a ground rescue; and (c) in routing the calls on the mountain about plaintiff’s rescue to improperly trained community services officer.

“The county is very proud of the fine work of the women and men who are involved in search and rescue efforts,” Heider wrote. “They risk their lives to save the lives of others.”

As this litigation is pending, county officials will not be conducting media interviews around this issue, according to the press release.

Climber rescue

On Saturday, May 26, rescue units plucked another injured climber from Mount Hood.

Volunteer rescue climbers from Portland Mountain Rescue made contact with 35-year-old Joshua Hawk near Hogsback Ridge. Rescuers verified that the climber was in serious but stable condition.

But it took nearly 10 hours to deliver Hawk to a waiting helicopter at Timberline Lodge due to high winds that reached 50 knots, delaying helicopter access to the area. He was subsequently transported to a Portland hospital. As of Tuesday, May 29, Hawk remained in serious condition.

Larry Berteau/MT

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