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Search Resumes for Missing Grand Teton Climber

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. - A helicopter and three park rangers who spent the night in a high-altitude hut at Grand Teton National Park plan to resume the search at dawn Thursday for a climber who went over a cliff during a thunderstorm.

Rescue teams on Wednesday used helicopters to remove 16 other injured climbers in three separate climbing parties from the exposed mountain after lightning struck the area. All the climbers suffered injuries related to lightning strike, including minor trauma and burns, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The groups were all above 13,000 feet on the 13,770-foot Grand Teton mountain, said park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs.

Suspended from helicopters by rope, rangers plucked the climbers from the mountain and carried them to aid stations at lower elevations. Wednesday night, the climbers notified emergency officials of a 17th climber who had not been accounted for, she said.

"He did go over a cliff. His climbing party lost sight of him, which sounds quite serious. But his condition is unknown at this point," Skaggs said late Wednesday evening.

The climber disappeared off the west face of the mountain, she said.

"It's vertical terrain. It's possible that he fell some distance," Skaggs told The Associated Press.

Three rangers spent the night in a hut at the 11,600-foot level and were to begin searching at daybreak Thursday in the area where the climber went over. A helicopter was also to go up at first light, which will be around 6:30 a.m., she said.

During Wednesday's rescue, helicopters took the 16 climbers first to a temporary shelter on a mountain saddle at 11,600 feet and then down to an operations base on the valley floor and waiting ambulances, Skaggs said.

The climbers' identities and hometowns weren't available, Skaggs said. Their injuries were the result of being struck by lightning _ either directly or indirectly _ and included burns and neurological effects such as numbness.

Nine climbers were taken to St. John's Medical Center in Jackson, said hospital spokeswoman Karen Connelly.

The hospital discharged three of the patients and transported a fourth to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center for treatment of potentially serious injuries. The five others were being evaluated Wednesday night, Connelly said.

"All of the patients that we saw were evaluated and treated for injuries related to lightning strike, and those injuries included minor trauma and burns," Connelly said. "Most of the patients are in fair to good condition."

Connelly said some of the rescued climbers had declined to go to the hospital.

Skaggs said one of the groups was only 100 feet below the summit of Grand Teton mountain when the storm struck. Another was 400 feet down and the third about 570 feet down, she said.

In 2003, a climber died from a lightning strike on the Grand Teton.



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