Body of 34-year-old woman recovered from ice cave collapse

GRANITE FALLS, Wash. -- Crews on Tuesday recovered the body of a 34-year-old woman who died when part of an ice cave collapsed Monday in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest north of Seattle.

In addition to the one fatality, five people were injured in the collapse that occurred around 6 p.m.  Monday. But only two of those remain hospitalized.

The deceased victim was recovered and flown from the area to Taylor's Landing, the search and rescue facility, and transported from the area by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Officer at about 4 p.m.

Working with an avalanche technician from the Washington State Department of Transportation, search and rescue personnel used small explosives in the area of the caves to dislodge  debris and check for stability of the ice, the sheriff's office said.

Technical rescue teams were able to reach the victim and hoist her out with SnoHAWK 10, the sheriff's office helicopter, the sheriff's office said.

Positive identification of the victim, as well as cause and manner of her death, will be determined by the medical examiner.

The Big Four Ice Caves north of Seattle are a popular hiking destination in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Rescue workers say the collapse of rock and ice occurred near the rear of one of the caves.

"Areas of the cave are still collapsing and will continue to do so until the cave no longer exists.  No one should go in or near the cave," said Search and Rescue Deputy Peter Teske. "The area is not safe."

Of those injured in the ice cave collapse, only two remain hospitalized. A 25-year-old man is in serious condition at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center. And a 35-year-old man is listed in satisfactory condition there.

The caves area is closed until further notice.

Authorities have posted warnings about the danger at the caves because of warm weather.

"We're seeing conditions that we normally see in August," one official said Tuesday.

Back in May, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office put out a news release warning people to stay out of these ice caves.

“As we head into the busiest and warmest part of the season the cave is in its most dangerous state,” said Lead Field Ranger Matthew Riggen. “The cave is in a condition that we would normally not see until at least September – large, inviting and collapsing.”

In 2010, an 11-year-old girl was killed at the caves by falling ice. Rescue crews have actively trained for a similar scenario over the past few months, Tracy M. O'Toole of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest said.