Navy helicopter recovers climber’s body from crater of volcano

By Calvin Palmer

The body of a climber who fell into the crater at the top of Mount St Helens was recovered yesterday by a US Navy helicopter brought in to help with the search.

Joseph Bohlig, 52, of Kelso, Washington, fell 1,500 ft into the crater on Monday afternoon. Two attempts by a Coast Guard helicopter to reach him were turned back by winds and fading light.

Bohlig’s body was covered by snow, with his arms, legs and head sticking out. Temperatures overnight in the crater dropped to the low twenties.

It is not clear how long Bohlig had been dead but the Coast Guard helicopter crew that spotted Bohlig’s body on Monday said there was no movement.

Strong winds and concerns over avalanches and rock falls also hampered rescue efforts earlier yesterday before the Navy helicopter was finally able to descend.

Bohlig, who had climbed the volcano 68 times, reached the summit with his friend Scott Salkovics after a four-hour hike on Monday. He took off his backpack and a layer of clothing then decided to pose for pictures.

Salkovics said that Bohlig handed a camera to another hiker and was backing up when the snow gave way and he fell.

“Boom, it busted off and I saw him clawing for the edge with a startled look on his face, and then he disappeared,” Salkovics said.

Salkovics threw a backpack with supplies down the crater and then called 911 to set the rescue effort in motion.

Richard Bohlig, the dead climber’s 84-year-old father, said his son was an avid mountaineer who hadclimbed peaks in many countries, but Mount St Helens was his home mountain.

“He used to go up even before the eruption as a child, play in the snow and that,” Richard Bohlig said. “I don’t know why he liked it, but he does. … I guess it’s a challenge for him. He likes to take people up to St Helens.”

The volcano, 96 miles south of Seattle, exploded in a massive eruption in 1980, which left 57 people dead and destroyed 250 homes.

The U.S. Forest Service said the climbing route reaches an elevation of 8,365 feet and provides views of the crater, lava dome and eruption area. Climbers are advised to stay well back from the rim due to its instability.

[Based on reports by the Associated Press, AFP and The Oregonian.]

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