Monday, December 18, 2006

Friend says body is Kelly James

I suppose it's what we all figured. I heard that family members had told the NY Times on Sunday the body found on Mount Hood was Kelly James of Dallas, who called his wife from a snow cave a week ago to say the group was in trouble.

Here's the latest from the Associated Press' Joseph B. Frazier:

A body found in a snow cave on Mount Hood by searchers looking for three missing climbers is the same climber who placed a distress call to relatives a little more than a week ago, a person close to the family and a military official said today.

Jessica Nunez, who is close to the family of missing climber Kelly James and has been acting as a spokeswoman, said the body is that of Kelly James. She said the information comes from James’ family, and that she had talked to them.

A military official involved in the search also confirmed the body is that of James, 48, of Dallas. The official asked not to be identified.

James’ mother, Lou Ann Cameron, told the AP she did not want to comment. Reached on her cell phone, she referred queries to the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office said they could not yet comment on the identity of the body.

A Chinook helicopter was preparing to fly to the snow cave, about 300 feet below Mount Hood’s 11,239-foot summit, to recover the body, said Pete Hughes, a spokesman with the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office.

He said other helicopters — two Blackhawks — were getting ready to fly to the mountain to search for the two climbers still missing: Brian Hall, 37, also of Dallas, and Jerry “Nikko” Cooke, 36, of New York City.

A team of climbers who stayed overnight at a lodge about half way up the mountain will also participate in the search, he said.

Hughes said today's search effort would center on possible descent routes on Eliot Glacier and Cooper Spur, relatively lower levels of the mountain, in case the other two got down that far.

“Eliot Glacier is real dangerous so we will do that by air only,” Hughes said. “It’s a bad avalanche area with crevasses. There are still people in crevasses that have never been recovered.”

Searchers had been trying to find the stranded climbers for a week, but they were thwarted by blizzards that kept hammering the mountain.

They got a break Sunday, a day that was sunny and clear with diminished winds.

Searchers found a snow cave Sunday near the spot located by cell phone signals.

Kelly James made a four-minute call to his family a week ago Sunday. He told his family he was in a snow cave, the climbing party was in trouble and that the other two had headed back down.

The body was found in a second snow cave near the first cave. Rescuers found two ice axes, a sleeping bag or pad and rope in the first. It was not known if any gear was in the second cave.

The body remained on the mountain Sunday night because darkness made it too dangerous to retrieve, rescue workers said.

Near the first snow cave, helicopters had spotted rope that had been intentionally laid out in a Y-shape, which climbers often use to indicate their location. There was also an ice spike and footprints, apparently headed up the mountain, said Sgt. Gerry Tiffany, a spokesman for the Hood River County sheriff’s office.

Searchers dug through the first cave to ensure no one was there and took the equipment, which will be examined for clues. The second cave with the climber’s body was found a short time later.

It was not immediately clear which cave was occupied first, or why or when the climber, or climbers, in it decided to move.

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