Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hood River County Sheriff's Office Press Release

Hood River County Sheriff’s Office
Press Release
17:50 hrs

On December 20, 2006, the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office suspended the search for missing climbers Brian Hall and Jerry “Nikko” Cooke due to weather. The Sheriff’s Office still has resources available to resume the operation when weather permits. Efforts will continue when weather and resources allow.

Sheriff Joe Wampler says, “The urgency that we have been deploying people, in hopes of saving lives, has now diminished. What we’re doing now, is concentrating efforts in certain areas, hoping to find Brian Hall and Jerry Cooke.”

On December 20, 2006, search efforts focused on checking snow anomalies reported to incident command staff on December 19, 2006. This included checking some areas on the southeast side of Mt. Hood, around White River. The source of the anomalies was determined to be naturally occurring formations in the snow and there were no tracks located, that would indicate the missing climbers utilized a southeast route of exit. The Hood River Sheriff’s Office was able to search the area with a fixed wing aircraft for about one (1) hour until weather forced an end to the air operations. Additionally, Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Patrol assisted on the ground, with the investigation of the snow anomalies.

On December 20, 2006, the Office of the Oregon State Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on Kelly James. Per the medical examiner’s press release, the cause of death was hypothermia from exposure to environmental cold. Dehydration may have been a contributing factor and chemical tests are pending. There were no disabling injuries documented by either autopsy or x-ray. Mr. James had been deceased for several days prior to the discovery of his remains in the snow cave.

Based on observations gathered by searchers, on the ground and in the air, there is still data indicating that some sort of accident occurred, possibly limiting or hindering Kelly James’s mobility. There is still evidence to be reviewed in the incident. Det. Sgt. Tiffany, of the Hood River Sheriff’s Office, says that the investigation of the death is still on going.

The no fly zone around Mt. Hood that had been in effect since last week, has been lifted as of 17:03 hrs this date. Additionally, restrictions on Mt. Hood have been lifted and the mountain is now open for recreational activities.

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