One dead, one injured after boulder comes loose during family rock climbing trip
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IDAHO FALLS — A freak rock climbing accident killed one Idahoan and injured another over the weekend.
Terry Hansen of Ucon is the owner of Hansen Group Company where he is a sales trainer and marketing consultant. He, along with his dad, Bonneville County Treasurer Mark Hansen, and two brothers left for a rock climbing trip in Montana last Thursday.
They planned to climb Granite Peak before returning home Sunday evening.
“Saturday morning, we woke up and had a nice breakfast,” Terry recalls. “We (were) already basically halfway up the mountain, so the plan on Saturday was to go all the way up and (reach the) summit and then come back down to our base camp on Saturday night.”
The family members reached the top of the peak around 3:30 p.m. Saturday. By 4 p.m., they were making their way down the mountain.
That’s when they noticed a boulder at one of the rappelling stations that Terry describes as being about six feet tall by six feet wide. He said it had some nylon webbing wrapped around it with a carabiner attached to it.
“It was that carabiner that we threaded our rope through to support us as we rappelled down,” he explained.
Terry volunteered to go first. Once he got down, he yelled up to his dad and brothers that the rope was caught. He grabbed the rope and it became unstuck, but when he made the comment about the rope, his younger brother Kevin stepped toward the edge to check on him.
Immediately, the boulder they were anchored to suddenly broke loose from the wall.
“Somehow that boulder either rolled over the top of my brother or knocked him off that ledge up there, and he fell over 1,000 feet,” Terry said. “He was killed pretty much instantly.”
Terry fell between 10 to 20 feet and landed on a three-foot-wide ledge. The boulder also hit the ledge and shattered into countless pieces.
“I didn’t know what was going on. There were tons of dirt and rubble and rock that was raining down on me,” Terry said.
They were able to call 911, but due to weather, a helicopter rescue wasn’t possible until the next day. The three of them spent the following roughly 15 hours on the little ledge at 12,500 feet.
“It was a very long night. We shivered a lot and did various kinds of exercises to keep our muscles warm,” he remembers. “It was one of the longest (nights) of my life.”
During this time, they could even see Kevin “way down there” and were coming to terms that he had passed away.
Terry has severely sprained ankles and once medical professionals could get to him, he received lots of stitches but has no broken bones.
“My injuries are pretty minor. They should have been significantly worse,” he added. “I frankly shouldn’t be here.”
Kevin, 41, was a seminary teacher for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Melba, which is south of Boise. He leaves behind his wife and four children ranging in age from eight to 15.
He was an outdoorsman and earned a geology degree from Idaho State University before completing a master’s degree in outdoor education. He loved alpine, rock, mountain and ice climbing and had done those hobbies for 20 to 30 years, Terry said.
He was even preparing to climb North America’s tallest mountain peak called Denali in Alaska next year.
“Kevin was very extroverted, very funny and very energetic. He was a wonderful storyteller and had the ability to take common everyday things and tell a story about them in a way that totally captivated you,” Terry remembers. “He was beloved by many people.”
A community memorial service will be held at Melba High School football field Sept. 19. A graveside service will take place in Idaho Falls Sept. 21. The times are still being determined.
A GoFundMe has been set up as a “rainy day” fund for the family. To donate, click here.
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