A 31-year-old woman from Seattle died after she fell down a crevasse while hiking down the Brothers Mountain in the Olympic National Forest.
Melanie Kondrat was hiking down the mountain Sunday afternoon, May 23, when she slipped along with a man in his 30s who was with her, said Brett Anglin, detective sergeant with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
The man — unidentified because of privacy concerns — held onto her to prevent her sliding into the 40-foot crevasse, according to the Naval Air State Whidbey Island search and rescue team.
After about 15 minutes, his grip gave out and she plunged to the bottom.
“It’s a tragic situation,” Anglin said. “It affected our responders there very significantly.
“Our heart-felt condolences go out to the family in this tragedy.”
Both hikers had lost their footing while they were hiking at about 5,700 feet and slid down the mountain. They hit rock outcrops, which stopped the man, but Kondrat — who was already unresponsive — kept falling.
When rescuers reached her, they found she was dead, Anglin said.
The man was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center on Sunday and has since been discharged, Anglin said.
Anglin, one of three coordinators who assisted, said that an InReach emergency beacon and a phone call from another group of hikers alerted authorities to the endangered hikers at about 1 p.m. Sunday.
Teams from Jefferson Search and Rescue (JSAR), Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO), Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Search and Rescue and Olympic Mountain Rescue formed to respond, Anglin said Tuesday.
The hikers who had called rescuers helped the man to a secure rock face and kept him warm — as he was suffering from hypothermia — but they could not reach Kondrat, Anglin said.
The Whidbey Island Navy crew found a way through the cloud layers and fog to drop two rescuers to the area. They determined the man needed to be flown out for care, and that additional rescue equipment would be needed before attempting to help Kondrat, according to a Facebook post by JSAR.
The Navy crew landed in Brinnon to pick up three JSAR members, along with ropes and rigging equipment, while remaining JSAR members and additional personnel from Olympic Mountain Rescue prepared to hike the Lena Lake Trail and climb the route from below to help with the extraction, Anglin said.
After multiple attempts, the helicopter was able to reach the site to drop the JSAR personnel. They hoisted up the man, who was flown to Harborview, and reppelled down to Kondrat, he said.
In worsening weather and diminishing daylight, the helicopter team had to make two more trips while navigating cloud layers and low visibility to retrieve the JSAR personnel, Navy medic, Kondrat’s body and the other climbing team, the Navy said in a press release.
The rescue was completed by 8 p.m., Anglin said.
He was impressed by the massive response from the Navy and other search and rescue teams.
“We can’t say enough good things about everybody who showed up,” Anglin said. “This was an extremely dangerous recovery, and to be even able to conduct this task is not only heroic but just phenomenal work by all parties involved.
“Through their efforts, they were not only able to recover one person, but also bring closure to the family.”