Wednesday, July 08, 2015


VERLOT, Wash. -- One of the survivors of Monday's fatal ice cave collapse says she feels extremely lucky to be alive after coming within inches of being pulverized by tons of ice and rock.

Five people were injured and a 34-year-old woman was killed on Monday when a portion of the Big Four Ice Caves collapsed.

Chloe Jakubowski was one of the hikers inside the cave during the collapse. She was hit by chunks of ice and rock, but was able to avoid serious injuries.

"I can still feel things coming down and hitting me," she said. "They were very heavy, large pieces of ice that were coming down."

The 18-year-old called Monday's tragic event "surreal" and said she's still processing it. Jakubowski said she was enjoying the scenery inside the cave when she heard a crack.

"It's this rush of cold air, the ceiling is dripping with beautiful, freezing rain. It's honestly an absolutely gorgeous experience to go into, but as soon as I heard the crack, the danger set in that I'm in a giant sheet of ice that's melting," she said.

Seconds later she saw pieces of ice and rock the size of watermelons come raining down on the hikers. The debris knocked her off her feet.

"It was genuinely terrifying," she said. "Right when I was going down, I saw people trying to run away. I saw a couple crouching down like I was. The people who were trying to run away, it was really really sad because they were the ones who were injured."

The caves are formed by avalanches that cascade down from nearby the 6,135-foot Big Four Mountain during the winter and spring. Most years, one or more caves form as the ice melts.

Jakubowski said she was just inches away from the woman who was killed in the collapse.

"She was like six inches away from me. It could have been me," she said. "If I was any closer to her, it could have been me."

The U.S. Forest Service has warned hikers that the ice caves were dangerous due to unseasonably warm weather. Visitors were urged to stay on the trail, not to enter the cave and to be cautious in the area, which is prone to falling rocks and ice.

Despite those warning signs, Jakubowski believes more can be done to keep people safe.

For one, she thinks there should be a call box in the parking lot nearest the caves. There is no cell phone service in the area, and Jakubowski said it took survivors 30 minutes to run back to the parking lot, and then they had to go find phones to call for help.

"As long as that cave is there, people are going to think about going in," she said.

The woman who was killed in the collapse has not been identified. Her body was recovered from the rubble Tuesday afternoon.

No comments: