One hiker was killed and four others were injured after the Big Four Ice Caves in northwest Washington state collapsed partially, officials said Monday night. Authorities have closed the ice caves since then.
The body of the deceased hiker, who could not be identified, reportedly remained buried under the debris as officials temporarily stopped the recovery effort, according to Shari Ireton, Snohomish County sheriff's spokeswoman. Three critically injured adults were airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle while one juvenile girl with minor injuries was taken to Providence Medical Center in Everett, Washington, NBC News reported.
According to Ireton, the emergency control received a call about the accident at about 5:38 p.m. (8:38 p.m. EDT) Monday, about 45 minutes after the incident, the Associated Press reported. The remote cave site located in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest reportedly lacks cell phone service.
One of the hikers, Chloe Jakubowski from the Seattle suburb of Bothell, told the Seattle Times that she and three friends drove nearly 15 miles to a pay phone to call emergency services after the collapse. "Everybody there, we grabbed everybody out and helped as best we could," she reportedly said.
Snohomish County emergency officials reportedly said the area around the cave site would remain closed until search and rescue teams recovered the body of the deceased hiker and examined the caves' safety.
The cave-in was the second such incident in two days. On Sunday, a hiker reportedly videotaped the caves collapsing and trapping several tourists inside. However, no injuries were reported that day.
In May, the U.S. Forest Service cautioned people that the ice caves, which are a popular hiking destination in the area, were in their "most dangerous state" because of the warm weather, according to AP. Temperatures in the region on Monday were reportedly in the 80s.
Monday’s death is reportedly the first at the ice caves since July 2010 when 11-year-old Grace Tam died after a cave-in. Her family filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service in 2011, claiming that the Big Four Ice Caves did not properly warn visitors about the possible danger, according to the Seattle Times. However, the lawsuit was dismissed.