Family files suit in death of climber
The family of the late Seattle man John Thornton Jenkins, 32, is suing Clackamas County, claiming Jenkins' death could have been avoided if the rescue helicopter arrived on the scene sooner. Jenkins' family is asking for $5 million in noneconomic damages and $5 million for loss of future income, and alleging that the delay in Jenkins' rescue was a case of negligence and wrongful death.
Jenkins' death was the result of a 600-foot fall on the Hogsback section of Mount Hood's south face on May 7, 2017.
Clackamas County 911 received a call about the fall around 10:48 that morning. According to the lawsuit filed by the family's representation, Portland attorney Jane Paulson, on Monday, May 14, "Clackamas County 911 transferred the call to Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. Connie Haider from the Clackamas County Sheriff's office did not call for help and told the caller to contact Timberline ski patrol despite being told the climber was a climber, not a skier and was outside the ski area."
At 11:25 a.m. Timberline Ski Patrol reached back out to Clackamas County 911, which then transferred to call to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. At 11:37 a.m. Portland Mountain Rescue made the first call to for a helicopter to Timberline Ski Patrol. Then at 12:11 p.m. Portland Mountain Rescue again requested a helicopter, this time from the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. The Oregon office of Emergency Management called the Oregon Army National Guard at 12:29 p.m. to request a helicopter, which arrived on the scene around 3:11 p.m.
According to the lawsuit, "As the helicopter arrived and attempted to secure plaintiff (Jenkins) into a basket and lift him to the helicopter, he stopped breathing and lost his pulse."
The family's representation is alleging that the delay of the helicopter was the fault of the county departments and a sign of negligence.
The lawsuit claims that "At all material times, defendant (Clackamas County, Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, Clackamas County 911) was negligent in one of more of the following particulars: (a) In failing timely request a helicopter to the fall site; (b) In failing to tell the climbers and rescuers to do a ground rescue; (c) In routing the calls on the mountain about plaintiff's rescue to improperly trained community services officer."
"First and foremost, the county wants to extend condolences to the Jenkins family," Clackamas County's Public Affairs Manager Tim Heider said in a statement on May 15. "Climbing the wilderness area of Mount Hood is an inherently dangerous activity that sometimes results in the loss of life. When all the facts are presented, the county is confident they will show that the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and our C-COM 911 Department responded appropriately to this tragic accident. The county is very proud of the fine work of the women and men who are involved in search and rescue efforts. They risk their lives to save the lives of others."
The Office of County Counsel will represent Clackamas County. The Clackamas County Office of County Counsel represents the county departments, elected officials, service districts and employees in legal matters.
Portland attorney Jane Paulson is representing Jenkins' estate.
Read the lawsuit online at www.documentcloud.org/documents/4462645-10-Million-Wrongful-Death.html, courtesy of Pamplin Media Group's media partner KOIN 6 News.