LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The man killed on Wednesday when part of the El Capitan granite monolith in California’s Yosemite National Park collapsed onto a hiking trial was a British climber whose wife was badly hurt in the incident, a park spokesman said.
The couple was found by a search and rescue team at the base of El Capitan after some 1,300 tons of rock broke off from the monumental granite formation and plunged onto a popular hiking trail, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said in a written statement on Thursday.
“The victims, a couple visiting from Great Britain, were in the park to rock climb but were not climbing at the time of the initial rock fall,” Gediman said. “The male was found deceased and the female was flown out of the park with serious injuries.”
The couple was not identified while the U.S. National Park Service worked with the British consulate to notify family members.
Gediman said two other people were initially believed missing but were later accounted for by search and rescue teams.
Wednesday’s incident actually comprised seven rock falls, Gediman said, involving a sheet of granite estimated at 130 feet (40 meters) tall, 65 feet wide and three to 10 feet thick about 650 feet up El Capitan.
Gediman said the slide was not an unusual occurrence in Yosemite, which sees about 80 rock falls a year, but most do not cause injuries or deaths.
Sixteen people have been killed and 100 others injured in rock falls since park records began in 1857. The last fatality was in June 1999, when climber Peter Terbush was killed below Glacier Point.
El Capitan, one of Yosemite’s best-known landmarks, is considered a world-class challenge for rock climbers.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Steve Orlofsky