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Search team recovers mountain climber’s body

Inside chopperMIDDLE SISTER: Benjamin Newkirk, a 39-year-old climber from Bend, was found deceased late Sunday morning after a multi-day search that was complicated by extreme weather.

Newkirk was climbing the 10,047 foot Middle Sister with another climber when he fell off the west side of the south-east ridge of the mountain on Wednesday, November 12th, at approximately 10 p.m.

On Thursday, searchers were able to hike in seven miles from the Obsidian Trailhead but had to turn back around 2 p.m. when they were at the 6,200 foot level due to heavy snowfall and poor visibility. On Friday a fixed wing aircraft patrolled the area, reporting they could not see the mountain due to a low cloud ceiling.

The search team that found Newkirk included 15 volunteers - from Eugene Mountain Rescue and Corvallis Mountain Rescue, two Incident Command staff in Bend assisting with communications, and Command staff managing the mission from Eugene.


Officials said knowledge of the mountain terrain as well aircraft surveillance assisted in locating Newkirk, who was found approximately 800-900 feet below where he fell.  Once located, Search and Rescue personnel performed a technical recovery using ropes and other equipment to transport Newkirk 6/10th of a mile to an area where he could be transported back to Eugene to a Medical Examiner.  Newkirk was reported to have been an experienced climber and was well equipped for climbing but had gear said to be “marginal” for winter survival. He had a cell phone and an emergency locator beacon. Unfortunately, the phone disconnected around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday and the beacon did not activate.

The unidentified second climb-er helped provide information to the searchers, according to the Lane County Sheriff’s Office.

Image above: Photo Courtesy LCSO. The Army National Guard provided an HH-60M BlackHawk and CH-47 Chinook that were used in the search efforts.  


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