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Horsetail Fall Rock Fall - photo by Tom Evans

One Fatality, One Injury, All Others Accounted For In Yosemite Rockslide

Rock Fall from El Capital location – photo NPS

YOSEMITE — Park officials have provided additional information concerning a series of rockfalls that occurred yesterday afternoon from the Southeast face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

One person was killed, one injured, and officials say all others are now accounted for.

Seven rockfalls occurred over a four-hour time span, with the initial rockfall happening at 1:52 p.m.

A preliminary estimate for the cumulative volume of all seven rockfalls is about 16,000 cubic feet (450 cubic meters), or about 1,300 tons, say officials. The irregular “sheet” of rock that fell is estimated to be 130 feet tall, 65 feet wide, and 3-10 feet thick. The source point is about 650 feet above the base of El Capitan, or about 1,800 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley, which is at 4,000 feet in elevation.

After the initial rockfall, Yosemite National Park Rangers and the Search and Rescue team entered the area looking for people at the base of the rockfall. Two people were found, resulting in one fatality and a serious injury.

The victims, a couple visiting the park from Great Britain, were in the park to rock climb but were not climbing at the time of the initial rockfall. The male was found deceased and the female was flown out of the park with serious injuries.

Horsetail Fall rockfall Sept. 27, 2017 – photo by Tom Evans

The National Park Service is working with the Consulate to notify family members. Until family notifications are completed, the names of the victims are not being released.

All other people in the area have been accounted for and search efforts have been concluded.

Rockfalls are a common occurrence in Yosemite Valley, say officials, and the park records about 80 rockfalls per year; though many more rockfalls go unreported. The rockfall from El Capitan was similar in size and extent compared with other rockfalls throughout the park, though it is not typical that there are victims when these occur.

It has been 18 years since the last rockfall-related fatality in Yosemite National Park. In that incident, rock climber Peter Terbush was killed by a rockfall from Glacier Point June 13, 1999. There have now been 16 fatalities and more than 100 injuries from rockfalls since park records began in 1857.

Yosemite National Park remains open and visitor services are not affected by the rockfalls.

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