04.13.06, 10:35 PM #1
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Jeep goes down 450ft cliff, couple unharmed
Now this Jeep was definitely trailrated...
PORT ANGELES, WA - Two skiers whose sport utility vehicle plunged 450 feet off Hurricane Ridge Road on Saturday afternoon were returned to the road virtually uninjured.
Jennifer M. Maurer, 22, and Ryan L. Brumbagh, 21, both of Seattle, were transported back to Port Angeles, but not to the hospital, Olympic National Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said.
Maurer received a Band-Aid for her finger, Maynes said.
The 1993 Jeep Cherokee was not so lucky, and rangers were still unsure how to remove it below where it plunged over the side of the road, which rises into the Olympic Mountains to the popular Hurricane Ridge ski area.
In addition to park rangers, Clallam County Search and Rescue, Olympic Mountain Rescue, Clallam County Fire District No. 2 and members of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene about eight miles south of Port Angeles after 9-1-1 dispatchers received word of the crash at 3:13 p.m., said Dee Renee Ericks, Olympic National Park east district ranger and incident commander.
First word of the crash came when passers-by noticed a set of tire marks in the snow leading to nowhere.
The Jeep apparently didn’t go over the edge all at once, said rescuer Bill Tiderman, who talked to witnesses at the scene and climbed down the hill to help Maurer back to the road.
He said before the vehicle went down the hill, it teetered for a moment. "Are we going to make it?" Tiderman said, recounting what could have been the couple’s discussion.
Included in the 450-foot drop were two cliffs, both between 30 and 40 feet high, Maynes said.
She said the vehicle tumbled at least four times on its way down.
"It must have been a terrifying ride," Maynes said.
The road had been heavily sanded Saturday morning, Maynes said, and had been inspected by the sand truck driver once between noon and the time of the crash.
She noted that the SUV had snow tires and was switched into four-wheel drive mode before it plummeted.
"Four-wheel drive isn’t necessarily a savior when you’re on ice," Maynes said.
The SUV left the road between two tunnels separated by about 70 yards, about 3.5 miles up from the national park’s Heart O’ The Hills entrance station.
The path the Jeep took as it went down the incline was obscured by falling snow. Although the vehicle is not visible from the road, pieces of the vehicle and debris showed the way.
Rescuers strung a 300-foot rope along the path the vehicle took to guide them, Maurer and Brumbagh up to the road, but the incline did not require rappelling.
Tiderman said it appeared the two had their seat belts buckled.
"Everything in the car was strewn out along the way, so they were obviously attached [to the vehicle]," he said.
John Stieber, operations leader for Olympic Mountain Rescue, helped Brumbagh to the road.
He said the car looked like it had plunged 450 feet.
"Upside down and tore up, that’s the best description I can give," Stieber said.
The incident is under investigation, Ericks said, noting that contributing factors such as road conditions and speed will be considered.
Rangers will next have to consider how to remove the vehicle, if they can. "It certainly won’t come out today," Ericks said.
"It may be very, very difficult to impossible to remove. We’ll have to assess that."
The park is planning a "pretty major rehabilitation" of Hurricane Ridge Road in the coming years, Maynes said, but did not know if the plan included a guardrail at the spot where Maurer and Brumbagh went off the road.
"We’ll be evaluating all aspects of the road," Maynes said.
"It’s extremely rare when things like this happen anywhere on the road."
The road to Hurricane Ridge rises from near sea level at its intersection with U.S. Highway 101 in Port Angeles to more than 5,000 feet in about 17 miles.Jet City Super Stealth
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04.14.06, 05:36 AM #2
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