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Two Washington climbers fall to their deaths
The Associated Press
JUNEAU, Alaska – Two Washington climbers fell 1,900 feet to their deaths during a descent on Mt. McKinley — North America's highest mountain — Thursday night, the Denali National Park and Reserve officials said Friday.
Rangers declared Mizuki Takahashi, 36, dead shortly after the fall. Her climbing partner, 27-year-old Brian Massey, remained unconscious throughout the evening, then died Friday.
The two were likely experienced climbers to be scaling the Upper West Rib, said park service spokeswoman Kris Fister.
It was the first climbing fatality on 20,320-foot Mt. McKinley since May 2005 when two Ohio men died, Fister said.
The cause for the fatality may never be known, Fister said. There was a third team member but he had stayed behind at a lower elevation level.
Fister said members from mountaineering ranger patrol at the 17,200-foot level witnessed the fall that began just shy of the 19,000-foot mark.
The roped pair fell to an elevation level just below where the patrol was stationed.
Takahashi was from Lake Forest Park, Wash., north of Seattle.
Massey, of North Bend, was a two-year firefighter for the Kent Fire Department, said department spokesman Capt. Kyle Ohashi.
He served in a 155-firefighter department that covered 58 square miles. Even after two years of service, Massey's work was felt department wide, Ohashi told The Associated Press.
Ohashi touted Massey's work as a teacher in the department's community emergency response team classes, which are designed to help civilians become more self-sufficient during the first 24 to 48 hours of a disaster.
He also recalled Massey as tech savvy firefighter who helped the department convert data for street and building maps to mobile computers. This, Ohashi said, made responses safer and more efficient.
"He was still doing a lot of learning, but he took it upon himself to do a lot of other things," Ohashi said. "And those were all voluntary. He chose to help the department in so many other ways."
As of mid-afternoon Friday, both climbers were to remain on the mountain until flying conditions permitted a recovery, Fister said.
Firefighters are prepared to see death daily, even among their own ranks, but when a colleague dies off the job, the impact among friends is more pronounced, Ohashi said.
"The fact that we can't do anything for Brian right now is very frustrating to our members," Ohashi said. "Right now, everybody just wants to go up there and bring Brian home."
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company