Rescue Effort for Fallen Hiker Resumes at Mount St. Helens

Hiker slid 1,500 feet into the crater of Mount St. Helens, not moving.

ByLEE FERRAN via via logo
February 16, 2010, 7:25 AM

Feb. 16, 2010 — -- Rescuers have resumed efforts to save a man trapped in the crater at Washington's Mount St. Helens but are battling imposing weather conditions, authorities said.

Despite early reports that the man, 52-year-old Joseph Bohlig of Kelso, Wash., was blowing an emergency whistle, at last sighting he was not moving, according to one rescuer.

"The pilot did a reconnaissance flight, got up relatively close, could not see any movement," chief Tom McDowell of the North Coast EMS Rescue Team told "Good Morning America" Monday. "He didn't make any effort to signal the helicopter."

This morning officials requested air support from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, but high winds, snow, rain and low cloud cover are expected to hamper rescue efforts today, according to a statement from the Skamania County Sheriff's Office.

According to authorities, Bohlig was an experienced hiker who had climbed the mountain as many as 68 times. Rescuers believe he was hiking with a partner and was posing for a picture on a ledge of snow when it gave way and he slid 1,500 feet into the crater. The other hiker did not fall.

"It would have been a very significant, injurious fall on the way down," McDowell said.

A Coast Guard helicopter could not lower a hoist Monday due to high winds. A mountain medic dropped onto the crater floor could not fight his way up to the stranded climber before dark.

Expert: Beyond Weather, Falling Rocks Could Be Danger

The volcano at Mount St. Helens killed 57 people and leveled miles of forest when it erupted in 1980. Though it is now dormant, experts said it could still be a dangerous area.

"There's nothing going on there aside from mostly rock fall activity and some steaming," said Bill Burton, associate program coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey Volcano Hazards Program. "His main hazard as far as the volcano goes, I would say is falling rock from the crater walls."

Harsh weather conditions could also prove a hazard for the man. Authorities believe that due to mild weather Monday, it's unlikely he was wearing warm clothing and rain overnight dropped temperatures.

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