SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A massive rockfall in Yosemite National Park left one person is dead and another injured Wednesday afternoon. It happened near El Capitan, on a popular climbing route called “Waterfall Route.”
“I looked up, and we saw about 200 feet of rock just sort of come off the wall and explode off the wall about 1,000 feet below,” said Brad Gobright, who was in the area when it happened.
Rock climbing guide Dave Miller jumped out of his car and took a picture as the rocks as came crashing down.
“A noise that was basically five times as loud as any thunder,” Miller said. “Louder than I’ve ever heard in Yosemite.”
Yosemite Park Rangers have not said what caused the rocks to fall. But it’s climbing season, and that means Yosemite National Park is bustling with mountain climbers. Gobright told CBS13 he was standing at the base the mountain just one hour before the rock fall.
“It was kind of shocking,” said Gobright. “I was thinking ‘wow, I could have been there. If I was there an hour later, you know, it could have been me.’”
It happened just before 2 p.m. Several 911 callers described seeing a massive dust cloud coming up from the base of the mountain.
“Maybe about 10-15 minutes [after], ambulances came rushing down the street,” Gobright explained.
And within 20 minutes, Gobright says search and rescue teams were scouring the area looking for anyone who may have been trapped in the rubble. Both Miller and Gobright were saddened to learn that one person died and another hiker another was injured.
“We were there when she got evacuated down where we were,” Miller said. “She was awake and talking.”
Miller tells his groups to stick close to the mountain wall in the event of a rock slide. But he’s been climbing in Yosemite for 30 years and says there’s no way to predict exactly when a rock fall will happen.
“This was spontaneous massive rock fall,” he said. “It’s just something that naturally happens in the mountains. And luckily it doesn’t happen too often, but it does happen.”
The latest information from park rangers said they were taking an injured person to the hospital but they gave no update on that person’s condition. Yosemite National Park remained open for the rest of the day and visitor services were not affected.