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One Hiker's Body Found; Search Continues; Small Plane Crash in Ohio

Aired December 17, 2006 - 22:00   ET


CAPT. MIKE BRAIBISH, OREGON NATIONAL GUARD: There was a secondary snow cave that was discovered. Climbers - our climbers did get inside the snow cave and have confirmed that there is one fatality. We do not have the identity of that individual at this time.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Clearly the words the families and rescuers and those watching didn't want to hear. We have extensive coverage of the Mount Hood rescue and recovery effort in Oregon.

I'm Carol Lin with a special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. Rob Marciano, Jacqui Jeras, Dan Simon, and some of our special guests will be joining me over the next two hours. And we're going to bring you all the latest from Oregon, where tragedy is now mingling with continuing hope for the two remaining climbers.

This is what we know right now. A body was found on the snow covered slopes of Mount Hood. And it is thought to be one of the three climbers who have been missing for more than a week. The body was found this afternoon in a snow cave. And at this hour, rescuers won't say who it is.

The body was found after searching two snow caves. The first one had a sleeping bag, ice axes, and a rope. Now searchers also found footprints and a Y shaped trench in the snow outlined with rope.

Tonight, search team leaders are considering their plan of action for tomorrow. And when asked about the two climbers still missing, a spokesman for the Oregon National Guard said, and I'm quoting here, "We remain hopeful."

Let's go to the base of the mountain. CNN's Dan Simon has been covering this story all day and throughout the night. Dan, what is going to happen next?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Carol. Tomorrow morning, the search and rescue mission is going to proceed in terms of trying to find the other two climbers. And tonight, the rescuers are developing a strategy in terms of how they're going to recover the body found in that snow cave.

Carol, such a range of emotions today in terms of how this all unfolded. You know, the family was here on the air strip in the morning. They were cheering these search and rescuers. And then we got word that they had located this snow cave, where they believe that one of the climbers was holed up.

They actually got there. And today was the first day they had the opportunity to do so because the weather was so good. So everybody was hopeful that they were going to find one of these climbers alive.

And then they checked out that snow cave. And it turned out to be empty. And then only a few minutes later, they discovered this second snow cave really by accident. They were just sort of walking around that general area. This is on the Elliott Glacier about 300 feet below the summit. They discovered this second snow cave. And that's when they discovered the body of one of these missing climbers. And, as you said, Carol, they still have not identified this particular individual.

LIN: Dan, why couldn't they take the body down tonight?

SIMON: Well, by the time they made the discovery, and it was about 3:45 p.m. local time, there wasn't much daylight. You only had about an hour or so of daylight. And they wanted to make sure that they did it the right way, that they handled the situation with a lot of sensitivity.

And also, it's not easy to navigate this particular terrain. You're talking about very steep terrain. Just to get there was a tall order. So I imagine that removing a body is not going to be an easy task, Carol.

LIN: You know, so many people have said look, on a beautiful day like today, if I was on that mountain and I needed to be rescued, I would do everything I could to come out of whatever snow cave I was in and wave and flag down any rescuers I could find. No sign of the other two climbers. What are authorities there on the scene saying about this?

SIMON: Well, quite frankly, it doesn't bode well for the other two climbers, the fact that you have one dead climber at this point. But they are still hopeful. They say that they're still in search and rescue mode, that they're going to aggressively search the mountain tomorrow. They're going to continue to have all of these resources available to execute this search. And until we hear otherwise, Carol, they're going to presume that those two other climbers are alive.

LIN: All right, Dan Simon, at Hood River County near the base of the mountain covering the story for us from the scene. Obviously, the weather has been the biggest problem for rescuers.

But this weekend clearly as you're seeing the pictures there, blue skies, there was a break. Let's see what's in store for tomorrow.

Jacqui, they're still assessing what they're going to do, but are they going to have the clear skies that they had today? JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely, Carol. It's looking very good tomorrow, not just tomorrow, but even into Tuesday. The weather conditions have dramatically improved. You saw the clear skies. The winds are relatively light, which really helps with visibility as well, because you get any kind of wind up there, and that blows the existing snow off the mountain and doesn't allow the rescuers to be able to see very well either.

Temperature wise, that's the big thing that we're dealing with at this hour, it's about one degree below zero up there at 11,000 feet. And temperatures are going to be dropping tonight possibly down into the negative teens. So that is every extreme, very, very cold.

Now tomorrow, we're anticipating to see more sunshine. We've got what we call a blocking pattern set up. And this allows storms to go up and over the Pacific Northwest and stay up toward parts of Canada.

Now there is another storm system, which is developing right now into the Gulf of Alaska. And that will be making its approach in the middle to latter part of the week. So we think we'll have at least 48 hours of very good weather, calm winds, clear conditions, but cold before we start to see clouds roll in we think in the coast as early as Wednesday morning heading over towards the Mount Hood area by Wednesday night. And we think we could see some significant accumulations of snow Thursday, Friday, maybe even lingering into Saturday morning.

But this next system that's going to be arriving will not be anywhere near as potent as the last one. So really the big dilemma that we're dealing with at this hour is certainly the cold conditions. You can see how chilly those temperatures throughout the region.

Now the winds with the next system that I mentioned is a little bit weaker. This is a computer model forecast. And we're looking at 30 to maybe 50 mile per hour winds, rather than 100 plus mile per hour winds we saw last go-around. So...

LIN: All right, a break they need indeed. Thank you very much, Jacqui.

Let's talk to somebody who was actually on the mountain today. Joining us live tonight is Dr. Christopher Van Tilburg. He's a member of the Crag Rats, a local search and rescue team taking part in the search for the missing climbers. Mr. Van Tilburg is also a medical doctor. He joins us now from Hood River, Oregon.

Doctor, is there any chance at all that these two other climbers may still be alive?

CHRISTOPHER VAN TILBURG, DR., CRAG RATS: There is a chance. And we always -- we're continuing the search tomorrow. So it's been a long time, but there's definitely a chance.

LIN: Why do you say that there might be a chance?

VAN TILBURG: Well, you know, these were skilled mountaineers. And they were prepared. They had some equipment and some food and water and fuel to melt snow. I think if they had a proper snow cave and they were bundled up and they were reasonably warm and had some water, they probably could last quite a while.

LIN: Well, Dr. Van Tilburg, today was a clear, sunny day. Expert mountaineers had expected to see that if the remaining climbers were alive, that they would have figured out a way to show themselves to rescuers. How do you account for that?

VAN TILBURG: Well, sometimes if they're uninjured and they're warm and dry and hydrated and nourished, sure, they would break through the surface and wave and scream and yell. But if they were injured, or if they're cold, or if their snow cave is deep in a crevice, or in a deep canyon, they might just be staying put because they just don't have the energy or the strength to break through to the surface. They're under, you know, several feet of snow since a week ago Friday.

LIN: So under what circumstances then could they be found?

VAN TILBURG: Well, it's just -- it takes a massive effort, which has been ongoing for the last - over the last week. And it's just -- it takes a lot of different types of rescuers to look and listen and look for clues and search by ground and by air.

LIN: It is tough. You got as high up as 9,000 feet on the mountain today?


LIN: What was it like? What did you see?

VAN TILBURG: Well, the weather was great. It was cold, but it was clear skies. And the sun was out. And it was just slightly breezy, but the avalanche danger was fairly significant. There -- we really had to be cognizant of avoiding dangerous slopes. So there were a fair number of slopes we didn't climb specifically because of the avalanche danger.

LIN: So how did you hear about the Y signal, the Y trench dug in the snow and the two snow caves?

VAN TILBURG: Well, I heard about it on the rescue radio that I carry. We heard -- I was out in the field when they found the first snow caves.

LIN: And so, give me your analysis of what you think might have happened? The first snow cave that we heard about and a pattern of footprints, one track going up toward the summit and another track going down, but in some kind of a circular pattern.

VAN TILBURG: Well, I don't have all the details yet because I just got off the mountain, and I haven't even been home yet. But I think the -- it's pretty clear that they had one snow cave and then possibly tried to climb down the mountain and realized they couldn't and then they built a snow cave. That's sort of a guess -- my initial reaction, but I really don't have all the details yet.

LIN: All right, Dr. Christopher Van Tilburg, thank you very much for sharing...

VAN TILBURG: My pleasure.

LIN: ...what it was like to be on the mountain today, to hear the news about the snow caves and the climber's body that was found and the hope that two more climbers may still be alive.

VAN TILBURG: My pleasure.

LIN: All right, well, we have just received the scanner traffic from rescue teams on Mount Hood today. This does confirm that when they found the body of one of the hikers -- well, take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Broadcast base, this is the summit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From summit team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Broadcast base from summit team, we have found one climber in the snow cave. One climber in the snow cave. Stand by for a medical assessment. Over.


LIN: Medical assist, but it was too late for that climber. So Rob Marciano joining me on the set right now. That was an emotional day for the rescuers.


LIN: There was so much hope there...


LIN: ...after the first signs that they saw that there was somebody on the mountain in that location.

MARCIANO: When you think about the rescuers and how long they've been working to find these guys, rescuers who seemingly - who didn't know each other beforehand and have become a close knit family and somewhat attached to the families who's guys are still up on the mountain. So a tough go, no doubt about that.

You know, we want to give you some perspective as to - and it's tough to do when you're talking about 11,000 foot mountain and 130 mile-an-hour winds, but CNN's Rick Sanchez who joins us now. He just got back from cold weather adventure school so to speak for some firsthand survival training.

Rick, you've been with us all night to kind of, you know, just give us some context or at least describe for us how it feels to be at that altitude and to feel that cold wind whipping through you. What can you add to our coverage tonight?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's an amazing feeling. It's one that I certainly wouldn't wish on anybody, Rob. And trust me, and I'm sure you know this as well, just from your own experiences and your own (INAUDIBLE) on this topic, these guys did not go up there thinking they would be in those circumstances. No mountaineer will put themselves in a situation where they're in winds that whip above 60 miles an hour.

It's something that happens as a result that you described so aptly during the Larry King hour, it's something that just snuck up on them. They didn't think that that storm was going to be as big as it was, moving as fast as it was. And something happened that delayed their one and a half day, you know, jaunt up the mountain.

So when you're in those circumstances that you see right now in that video that we have on the air from the report that I filed when I was up at 12,000 feet in the Rockies, you basically -- the only thing you can do is find a way to get yourself out of the elements, find yourself - find a way to get yourself out of those 60 mile-an-hour winds, and that cold. And that is to build a snow cave and then hunker down and hope that the weather passes A, or somebody comes and rescues you, B.

And if you have to be in there longer than you'd expect, you better have a way of melting that snow so that you can drink it as well. So it's A, stay out of the elements and B, hydrate.

And if you can do that, somebody will eventually come along and save you. And that was -- that has been the hope all this time and certainly the hope that tomorrow that can happen as well for these two remaining mountaineers.

And that maybe, to answer Carol's question earlier, maybe they're not hearing people because they're unconscious. They could be unconscious, but still alive. You know, that's the hope at this point, obviously, that we all have. Rob?

MARCIANO: Well, you just spoke about hydration. And I'm sure there's a lot of people at home thinking well, how could you possibly be dehydrated with all that snow around you? What did the survival experts or teachers tell you about just munching some snow for water?

SANCHEZ: First of all, it depends on the snow. If the snow is new and fluffy and too -- and doesn't have enough -- enough for lack of a better word liquidity in it, it's hard. It's almost like a powder. Imagine taking something and putting it in your face. It's almost like sand.

Now if it's already started a melt, in other words, if it's soft in that sense, you can try to eat it. And yes, it will hydrate. That's the good news.

The bad news is A, it will make hypothermia set in because obviously it's cold and it's affecting you and it's touching your face and your hands. B, it takes so much energy to try and chew it, to liquefy it, that in the end, you're expending more energy than you're getting in. Remember, the reason you're hydrating yourself is so that you could survive longer by giving your body, you know, the fuel it needs to keep going.

Well, by trying to chew the snow, you're actually expending more energy than you're actually -- than you need to expend. So it's kind of like you're defying the very thing that you're trying to do. And that's the way the experts described it for me.

MARCIANO: So without any fuel left in your portable stove or a candle or any means to heat that water or that snow and to melt it down to water, you're out of luck. So...

SANCHEZ: Yes, you basically have three days. And after that, you will most likely perish, according to the experts.

Now obviously, some will last four, some will only last two. That's a guideline essentially, Rob, but yes, you have three days without water. And you know, that's pretty much what the experts say.

MARCIANO: Well, on a signal of hope, what could you share with maybe the family members or people hoping for these other two climbers to survive, that maybe something that your teachers mentioned to you that rings a bell and says well, you know, there's a chance these guys could survive?

SANCHEZ: The chance is that yes, yes, you know what, that they had the proper equipment. We know that they likely had the stove to be able to melt the ice or the snow. We know that they had shovels to make a really good snow cave. We know that they have the experience and that they knew what they were doing.

You put all those three things together and there's a possibility that they can still be out there, perhaps not able to signal their rescuers, but still be out there, and maybe they'll be found tomorrow. And that's - you know, obviously, you know, we live our lives on hope. And that's what we all wish for tonight for them and for their families.

MARCIANO: Well spoken, Rick. Thanks, very much. Rick Sanchez, CNN's well now survival guy. He's been through it with some of the best of the best to show him how to get through this sort of situation. But I guess until you're in it, you're in it.

LIN: Yes.

MARCIANO: You can't even imagine.

LIN: And coming up, we're going to be talking next to a guest who survived 17 days trapped in a snow cave on Mount Hood. How did he make it out alive?

MARCIANO: Nice story. LIN: Also, we're going to have much more on the search and the rescue and the recovery for the two remaining climbers. So please, stay with us right here on CNN.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a secondary snow cave that was discovered. The climbers, our climbers, did get inside the snow cave. And have confirmed that there is one fatality. We do not have the identity of that individual at this time.


LIN: Welcome back. We are bringing you full coverage of the Mount Hood tragedy tonight. This is what we know this hour. Three missing climbers, one anguished week of searching, and the worst news emerged today about one of them. Emergency crews discovered a snow cave with a body inside. The man's identity has not yet been made public. The search for the other two is off for the night, but hopeful rescuers will hit the mountain again in the morning.

MARCIANO: Let's bring in a veteran mountain climber and outdoor expert, Jim Whittaker. He's the former president and CEO of the outdoor retailer REI. And back in 1963, he became the first American ever to climb Mount Everest. Jim Whittaker joins me now live by phone.

Jim, thanks again for being with us. If you could kind of describe what goes through the mountain climbing community or family, I suppose, when news of one of yours is lost like this?

JIM WHITTAKER, FMR. PRES. & CEO, REI: Yes, it's difficult, of course. Your heart goes out to the family members and so forth. And you put yourself in the position of the climbers that no doubt face some extreme conditions.

And it's a tough deal for those that are left behind. The climbers themselves are doing what they wanted to do and were testing themselves, challenging themselves to see what they could do against that beautiful mountain. And you've got to give them credit for that. But it's too bad, it's unfortunate that they got nailed down in a storm and they haven't been able to get out of it.

MARCIANO: What goes through -- you've been in some trouble in your climbing career from time to time. What goes through a climber's mind when, you know, things are starting to get scary, when you think hey, I might not get down this mountain?

WHITTAKER: Well, that's -- you bet. But -- and people say I wouldn't climb because I'm afraid of heights. And I say well, good, you'd better be afraid of heights. If you weren't, you'd kill us both because I'm roped to you. And I want you to be afraid of heights. I want you to be afraid of the mountain in a sense, but you just learn to overcome the difficulties of the steep face and of other things.

So what you do is control that fear, but fear is a good thing. It keeps you alive. It keeps you - you know, nature gave us a great gift in fear because then you're more careful, more aware, and do things like that.

I think one thing that this climb will do is make people more aware of the dangers that exist in high mountains. And I'll tell you that Mount Hood can be just as bad as Mount Everest. A storm on Mount Hood can be just as bad as a storm on Mount Everest. And you just don't climb in it. The winds are too strong. There's too much risk. And so you try and hunker down and get into a cave or something like that.

So Mount Hood has got the same kind of weather that you can find on the highest mountains of the world.

MARCIANO: That's striking to hear. And I'm sure some viewers at home are a little surprised by that. You're talking about a mountain, Mount Hood, albeit impressive and tall by U.S. standards, but it's, you know, just over a third of the size of Mount Everest. And you're saying it could be just as hairy.

WHITTAKER: Well, just imagine yourself staying in a 95 mile-an- hour wind on a glacier in a whiteout, this crevice, and has snow bridges that you might drop to. And you've got to find a way to get out of the storm.

And so if you've got a shovel and a few tools, you dig down, and get into a cave. But I'll tell you, a whiteout on Mount Hood in 95 mile-an-hour winds, you could be standing at 26,000 feet on Mount Everest.

The only hope that you've got up on Everest is you've got a bottle of oxygen to keep you alive. Those that don't have it die from lack of oxygen. But no, the storms -- you know, you've got -- it's basically the same sense of the mountain.

MARCIANO: Through your years of experience and through the training that you know or at least the apprenticeship that climbers get into, is there hope tonight? I mean, what kind of hope can you give the family members who are still waiting for the other two climbers?

WHITTAKER: There's always hope. And sometimes there's amazing stories of survival. So you've got to look, you've got to go out and search. And it's good weather. There's no risk to the climbers. They can stay off the avalanche slopes or they can venture out with avalanche detectors and so forth.

So no, we say, you know, go for it, let's find those guys. The minute there's enough light to start up again and start looking. So we just say we pray for them and hope that they've been lucky.

MARCIANO: Jim, thanks again for your insight tonight. Jim Whittaker, been up on Mount Rainier 80 times. That's a man with some experience.

LIN: Tough man. And when he talks about what it's like to be up there, even in those harsh conditions, he just lights up...

MARCIANO: He does.

LIN: ...the passion in him. And why -- he explains why people do it.

MARCIANO: They all have that passion.

LIN: They certainly do.

We're still focusing on this story throughout the next couple of hours, but we also have some other news to tell you about. We are going to be getting back to the search for the missing climbers, but first, we want to tell you about a plane crash in Ohio.

We only know that a single engine plane went down in a neighborhood about 60 miles north of Columbus. No official word on how many were on board, or their condition, or if anyone on the ground was actually hurt. Stay with CNN because you're going to hear from an eyewitness who was hanging his Christmas lights with his grandchildren in just a few minutes when he witnessed that plane going down.

Now in the Pacific Northwest, about 500,000 homes remain in the dark. It's been four full days since a killer wind storm break Washington state.

And 50 tons of steel girder on display in Battery Park in New York City. It will soon be part of the new Freedom Tower, where the World Trade Center once stood. Visitors were allowed to write messages on the beam today.

And a touch of green at Baltimore Washington Airport today. Beginning early this morning, the military men and women stationed in the area began heading home for the holidays.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy to be here, happy to be going home. Nice leave, though I can come back, continue on with my turn.


LIN: And a rift in the Episcopal church widens and deepens. Two prominent parishes in Virginia voted to leave the church today and join a growing conservative Anglican movement.

And the national menorah is lit. It stands on the Ellipse, not far from the White House. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah began on Friday. Rob?

MARCIANO: And we continue to get new pictures and new sound from Oregon. This is some scanner traffic from rescue teams on Mount Hood today. This is when they found the first snow cave. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying to figure out how there could be two ice axes there without two people. Are they tools or are they full length ice axes? Are you absolutely certainly there's nothing else to find?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two Charlotte Mosier ice tools, curved handles, one pad, two runners, one locking carabiner (ph), and some anchor strap. That's all that we found. We've dug down to old snow.


LIN: Wow. All right. The latest from Mount Hood, Oregon. And I just got word that we're going to be talking with one of the rescuers who was on the south side of the mountain today in this hour. We're going to be focusing on the search for the remaining two climbers when we come back. And also later...


SANJAY GUPTA, HOST, "HOUSECALL": Even a little bit of moisture on somebody's body can drastically change the temperature at which somebody becomes hypothermic. So if they're wet for some reason or another, even what would be just cool temperatures instead of very cold temperatures can make someone hypothermic.


LIN: Our very own Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains what can happen in situations like this. CNN, the most trusted name in news.


LIN: Special coverage in the CNN NEWSROOM tonight. Tragic but still hopeful. Search efforts on Mt. Hood, Oregon. This is what we know since three climbers went missing more than a week ago. A body was found today. No ID just yet. Authorities say they still believe the other two climbers could be alive.

The body was found in one of two make-shift snow caves. The other cave had a sleeping bag and ice axes and rope. And rescuers also found footprints and a Y-shaped trench made of rope in the snow. A signal for help.

Now, the air and ground search for the remaining two climbers has been called off for the night, but rescuers intend to bring the body down the mountain Monday to start the identification process.

MARCIANO: It's times like these when we turn to those with the most personal experience. Randy Knapp, he is on the phone with us. He has definitely some cold weather survival experience, probably more than he has ever planned.

Thanks for joining us again, Richard. What was the year you were stuck up there on Mt. Hood -- or Randy?

RANDY KNAPP, MOUNTAIN CLIMBER: It was the beginning of 1976, the first 16 days of 1976.

MARCIANO: And you and your buddies were going to make a little new year's jaunt up the mountain, and what happened?

KNAPP: Well, what originally was planned for a three- or four- day climb of the mountain turned into a 17-day climb when the weather turned on us and a storm came in, and the visibility went down to absolutely zero. There were times when we couldn't even see the snow at our feet, and so we decided to head down the mountain, and we got lost.

MARCIANO: Now how easy is it to get lost on Mt. Hood?

KNAPP: Well, when you can't see what you're doing, it's pretty easy to get lost. We made the mistake being amateur climbers and young, we had forgotten our map in our car. We had compasses, we had altimeters, all that kind of stuff, but without a map to guide us, we were kind of shooting in the dark.

And so we did the best we could by memory since we climbed the mountain before, we did the best we could, and we just -- we missed it.

MARCIANO: I think what's probably most encouraging about your story when it started being retold a few days ago is that one, it happened on Mt. Hood, two, it happened in the dead of winter much like this accident, and, three, you guys survived in a snow cave for how long?

KNAPP: We were in our final snow cave for 13 days. During the time we were on there, on the mountain, we dug a total of I think six or seven snow caves. My memory is getting blurry.

MARCIANO: OK. So you dug six or seven snow caves. A lot of people are asking why there was a second snow cave found today. Can you shed some light on why you would dig multiple snow caves?

KNAPP: The reason we did, originally our first snow cave we dug just for the fun of it, that's when the weather was still good, and we were planning on using it as our kind of high camp. We had dug it at the 9,600 foot level near Illumination Saddle. And we just dug that one for fun. That's when the weather was still fine, and we didn't have any weather issues.

When we started down the mountain, a couple of days later, we dug the snow caves for survival. And you know, just to get out of the elements. It was snowing hard, the snow was wet, and we were getting wet, and our equipment was getting wet, and so instead of being out in the elements, we dug in under the snow just so we could be warmer.

MARCIANO: Tell us what's the most enjoyable or fascinating thing about climbing Mt. Hood? Why is it so special?

KNAPP: Well, first of all, it's a beautiful mountain. And I know a lot of people question why climbers would climb in the wintertime. In the wintertime the mountain is in its most beautiful state. The rocks are covered with ice crystals that look like pearls. On Mt. Hood there's a section near the summit called The Pearly Gates, and it's a section that most people who climb the south side route pass through. And in the winter time it's just gorgeous. The rocks are just resilient with color, and it's just a beautiful time to climb. The weather's cold, but we take cold weather gear, so it's just the storms we've got to watch out for.

MARCIANO: A lot of the -- many questions -- many times the question has been asked, you know, why do men and women like yourself climb these mountains. And I can hear your smile when you describe the beauty of the mountain as you make that ascent. That passion is shared with all mountain climbers, I suppose.

KNAPP: Yes, it is. And another important element is taking on a challenge that's not easy and feeling your body, your muscles, your skills, your mind work as -- I guess as an orchestra. Everything working perfectly, feeling strong, feeling confident. Just all that process going up a challenging route to make it to the top. Just the feeling of exhilaration is I guess like any sport. When a runner is running well, they experience a runner's high. When a climber is climbing well, we experience a climber's high, and we don't take drugs to do it.

MARCIANO: Well put. Randy Knapp, thanks again for your insight. We're glad you survived almost 30 years ago, I suppose. And we're hoping that these men on the mountain now have the same luck. Thanks, Randy.

KNAPP: You're welcome.

LIN: Boy, just to hear his passion and talking about what that perfect climb is like. We want to talk to a man now who has been deeply involved in the rescue and recovery effort today. Steve Rollins led a team up Mt. Hood today. He has been part of the search for the past week, and he joins us now by telephone.

Steve, good to have you. You were actually on the south side of the mountain today, right? The snow caves were found on the northwest side of the mountain.

STEVE ROLLINS, PRESIDENT, PORTLAND MOUNTAIN RESCUE: That's correct. We kind of did some preparation work for the climbers that we inserted by helicopter on the summit.

LIN: So were you on the mountain when you heard the news about the two snow caves and the finding of a body?

ROLLINS: Yes, my team was just descending from the (INAUDIBLE) when we heard the news. And obviously very disappointed. This search is probably one of the most frustrating searches I've been in terms of the weather and avalanche and just not being able to do things that we'd like to be able to do.

LIN: Yes. It just seems like the weather has been a wall of snow and wind in the face of the people trying to get to these climbers. ROLLINS: Well, just to tell you, Mother Nature has not been on our side on this one, and especially, you know, we knew that one individual was supposedly high on the north face, kind of near the summit in a snow cave. We had a rough idea of where that was, but we just couldn't get to it. You know, with the weather being as bad as it was, and even once the weather cleared, we had such high avalanche danger we had to be very, very cautious up there.

LIN: We don't know how long that carved-out Y was in the snow. All right? But we saw a picture of it today. Why wasn't that seen earlier from the air? Is anybody asking that question out there?

ROLLINS: You know, I haven't heard that question yet. The weather has not been good. Even yesterday it was supposed to be the first day of our break in the weather. And, you know, I led a team yesterday and walked off with six fingers frostbitten from a minus-52 degrees wind chill. (INAUDIBLE) mountain was like somewhat obscured with the linticular clouds. For helicopters, it's been hard for them to see that kind of thing. You just kind of have to get in close. So it is not too surprising to me.

LIN: So, Steve, what's going to be the break here? I mean, two climbers are out there. The Oregon National Guard still insists that there is hope that they might be alive. What is going to be the break that you need? Because most people are saying on such a beautiful day on Mt. Hood today that they would have shown themselves if they could have.

ROLLINS: Well, I guess that I would probably agree with that if they were mobile, but you know, you can still be alive and be incapacitated to a point that you can't get out and walk around and yell for help and that kind of thing. A friend of mine was stuck on Mt. Stuart, another mountain in this Cascade range, a year ago, and they had to helicopter up, and he was right on the ridge waving at them and the helicopter just didn't see him.

So, you know, this is a very big mountain. You know, 11,000 feet tall. We don't know what side of the mountain the two individuals that went for help might be on, so you know, it's very challenging, and as far as the next step, any clue that we can get to indicate what might have happened and where the other two might have gone, that's what we're looking for.

LIN: All right. You take a look at the evidence then. Two snow caves, a body, footprints going up toward the summit and a set of footprints going down in a circular pattern. Where would you go tomorrow? What would you do next?

ROLLINS: You know, I honestly haven't had a chance to kind of put all the pieces of the puzzle together, and not that I could put my pieces together and come up with a totally different answer. So as professional rescuers, we're getting together tonight to go through different scenarios, kind of, you know, do some plausible stories and see what we think makes the most sense. And then we decide where we are going to put search teams.

LIN: What would be a story that you would throw out there then at this meeting tonight?

ROLLINS: Oh, gosh, you know, I think it's -- you know, there's evidence to suggest the north side. I still think that there's -- you could make a good case for the south side. So I don't -- I think my mind is still open. I'm just optimistic.

LIN: And when they announced the finding of this body, I'm just wondering, what does that do to the mood for the search? Does it fire you up? Does it make you more determined, or are you feeling that you are facing the fury of the situation?

ROLLINS: Well, I've done mountain rescue for 10 years. So I've seen fatalities before. And we obviously knew that that was a possibility. But definitely disappointed. Especially, obviously we care for everybody that we go -- we rescue. We care a great deal. But our entire mountain rescue group, they are all climbers, all skilled climbers. You must be to be in a mountain rescue group.

So you know, when a climber needs help, I think it hits home that much more. And the fact that these were skilled climbers and trying a challenging route, I think it definitely has an impact on all of us and it is definitely disappointing.

LIN: All right. Steve Rollins, I know the sacrifice that you and your team are making. We wish you all the best. Good luck tomorrow. We understand that the weather is going to hold for you.

ROLLINS: Thank you so much.

LIN: Steve Rollins, president of the Portland Mountain Rescue.

Now speaking of fury, facing the fury of Mother Nature.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a biting cold, it's hard to see, in fact it's downright painful. The question now is, if you're stuck in these conditions, what do you do? How do you survive?


LIN: CNN's Rick Sanchez finds out in the NEWSROOM.


MARCIANO: We're bringing you full coverage of the Mt. Hood tragedy tonight. Here's what we know this hour. Three missing climbers, one anguished week of searching, and the worst news emerged today about one of the climbers. Emergency crews discovered a snow cave with a body inside. The man's identity has not yet been made public. The search for the other two is off for tonight, but hopeful rescuers will hit the mountain again early in the morning. Our Dan Simon has been covering the story from the base of Mt. Hood. He joins us once again live tonight.

Dan, what do you know? DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rob, the body of that missing climber is still on the mountain tonight. The recovery is going to take place sometime tomorrow morning. In terms of why they did not do it tonight, well, they found the body at about 3:45 local time, and simply there wasn't enough daylight left in the day to carry it out. So they felt like, let's do this tomorrow, let's take our time, let's handle this with a lot of sensitivity. Let's do this the correct way.

We still don't know the identity of the deceased climber, and for that matter, the family has not been told who this climber is. So you have three families essentially going to bed tonight not knowing if it's their loved one who died there on the mountain.

As far as the other two climbers, at this point, it's being characterized still as a search and rescue mission. Meaning they believe there's still hope that perhaps these two climbers are still alive, but obviously now that you have one deceased climber, it certainly doesn't bode well for the others.

But at this point, Rob, few people here are giving up hope.

MARCIANO: Do you know anything, Dan, about the strategy for tomorrow, what the plan of attack is? Is it similar to the way they went about business this morning?

SIMON: It's my understanding, Rob, all of the resources that had been used over the past few days are still going to be available tomorrow. You're still going to have a number of crews go up on the south side and the north side to actively search for the two missing climbers. And in terms of recovering the body, that will probably be done with the assistance of the helicopter.

In other words, you'll have rescue personnel actually on that helicopter, they'll drop them at a certain point, and then they will descend down the mountain. You're talking about an area 300 feet below the summit in an area called Eliot Glacier. It's very difficult terrain to navigate, and that's why they want to do it in the morning to give them enough time. Because this probably will take several hours for this to be accomplished -- Rob.

MARCIANO: All right, Dan. We're going to check back with you a little bit later on tonight. Thanks for your reports, Dan Simon, from the base of Mt. Hood -- Carol.

LIN: Well, this rescue effort, it focuses on three men, but there are three families at the base of that mountain going through the hell of not knowing their loved one's fate. Well, a short time ago CNN's Larry King spoke to the pastor of one of the missing climbers.


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": This is, is it not, the toughest time in a pastor's life, Gary? GARY BRANDENBURG, KELLY JAMES' PASTOR: These are difficult times, Larry, that's true. But as I shared with someone today, we have a number of people in our congregation at any point in time that are facing life and death issues. So this one is just a little unusual.

KING: Have you talked to Kelly's family?

BRANDENBURG: I have, I talked with Karen (ph) last night. And we're staying in touch with her and with the family.

KING: And do you pray with them? Do you -- what keeps your hopes going in a situation like this?

BRANDENBURG: Well, we do. We pray constantly. We have been praying all week long. But there are a couple of things that are just a great encouragement to us. Number one is just the strength and the faith that is coming from these families. That's an inspiration to us. But also I know Kelly, and I know how Kelly lived his life, and I know that he lived his life in such a way that he was prepared for anything that would come, and he was a man -- is a man of great faith, and so we just continue to pray that they get these other guys and bring them home.


LIN: Well, it's a rush against time. Searchers trying to find two of the remaining climbers trapped on Mt. Hood. So up next the spokesman nor the Oregon National Guard vows to fight through the night. Stay with CNN as we bring you the latest developments.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to do everything possible in our power to get these people back home to their families.


LIN: We're still staying with the story of the missing climbers and the latest on the search for the two remaining climbers on Mt. Hood, but we're also following a developing story out of Ohio. A small plane crashes in a neighborhood in Bucyrus, north of Columbus. Roger Rush (ph) witnessed the crash, and he joins us by telephone.

Roger, we're taking a look at footage from the local affiliate out there, WBNS. But you were actually hanging your Christmas lights with your grandchildren, is that right?

ROGER RUSH, WITNESSED PLANE CRASH: Yes. I just stepped outside, we were going to actually go for a ride and look at the Christmas lights.

LIN: And you say the plane, what, a few blocks away, where it crashed?

RUSH: Yes. You can actually see the nursing home and the Indian Creek Apartments where it crashed from my house. I heard what sounded like a plane doing a dive bomb. Just a loud roar, and then bright red light dove right into the ground.

LIN: Oh my goodness, what did you think?

RUSH: Pretty sure it was a plane right away. I heard a bunch of breaking glass, it sounded like somebody dropped a bunch of dishes, just a huge breaking sound. And I ran back into the house, and my wife said, what was that horrible racket? And I said, a plane just crashed. So she said, I'm going to call 911. And she ran in the house and called 911.

LIN: How big was the plane?

RUSH: Couldn't tell. All I saw was that bright red light. And but it sure sounded loud. You know, I don't know.

LIN: Did you know for sure that it wasn't a jetliner, though?

RUSH: Pretty sure it wasn't that. I didn't see no fireball or anything right after it hit, like a large amount of fuel blew up or anything.

LIN: Have you heard whether anybody in the nursing home was injured?

RUSH: No, I really haven't heard too much about that. There was a house two blocks north of me on fire, and I have heard that some debris from that plane caused that.

LIN: We're looking at the debris field right now. It looks like much of the wreckage though may have been picked up. I can't really quite tell in this particular video whether parts of the plane are still on the ground, but I imagine there's going to be an investigation. What did you tell your grandkids?

RUSH: I told them to hurry up and get in the house. I wasn't sure what was happening exactly. So my little granddaughter was mostly shook up. The one boy, he thought it was pretty cool, I guess. He saw it too with me, he's only 4.

LIN: Oh gosh, that is young. All right. Well, thank you very much, Roger, for sharing your story with us. Roger Rush, who witnessed a plane crash in Bucyrus, Ohio, about 65 miles from Columbus, Ohio.

We're going to have more continuing coverage also on the search for the missing hikers on Mt. Hood. We'll be right back.



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