One person was killed and another injured after a rockfall at Yosemite National Park caught climbers at a popular thrill-seeker’s destination off-guard, with huge chunks of rock reportedly falling about 1,000 feet as climbers hiked at the cliff’s base.
The fatal incident took place Wednesday at Yosemite’s El Capitan, a granite monolith that stands about 3,000-feet tall and attracts thousands of hikers and climbers each year, NBC News reported. Park officials said that the rockfall occurred at around 2:00 pm local time and saw an enormous mass of stone plummet from about 650 feet above El Capitan’s base.
Initial reports claimed that a British man was killed and his female companion injured after the first rockfall took place. That incident was followed by an estimated seven more rockfalls, park officials said, which together dumped about 1,300 tons of rock onto the valley below.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” veteran climber Peter Zabrok told NBC in a video interview from the side of the mountain, describing the rockfall as “enormous” and claiming that the piece of rock that he saw fall was “about 100 feet by 100 feet by 100 feet.” He also claimed to have just spent six nights camping “directly under the rockfall.”
Park officials will release the identities of the victims once their families have been notified. The female victim was airlifted out of the park and treated for serious injuries.
The last fatality from a rockfall in Yosemite occurred in 1999, and there have only been a total of 16 fatalities and over 100 injuries since park since people began keeping records in 1857, park officials said.
“The rockfall from El Capitan was similar in size and extent with other rockfalls throughout the park, though it is not typical that there were victims,” Yosemite National Park said in a statement.
In all, about 12 to 15 deaths occur at Yosemite per year alongside hundreds of non-fatal accidents, with most stemming from extreme athletic stunts like free climbing and BASE jumping.