One dead, three others airlifted after ice cave collapse in Washington

One person was killed and three others suffered major injuries Monday after an ice cave in Washington partially collapsed.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department confirmed the fatality in the partial collapse of the Big Four Ice Caves in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. No other information on the victim was released.

The Big Four Ice Caves are nearly 70 miles northeast of Seattle. The initial 911 call occurred about 5:38 p.m., according to a statement from the sheriff's department. It's estimated the collapse happened about 45 minutes before then.

Three people seriously injured in the partial collapse were airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg. Their injuries included head wounds and leg fractures.

A 25-year-old man is in critical condition and was going into surgery about 10 p.m., she said. The extent of his injuries was unclear.

A second man, 35, is in serious condition, and a 35-year-old woman is listed in satisfactory condition, Gregg said.

Neither of the others injured was expected to require surgery, she said. 

Gregg was unable to confirm whether the patients were related.

A fourth victim, a girl, was transported by ambulance to Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett with minor injuries, according to the sheriff's department.

The ice caves are described on the Washington Trails Assn. website as “formed by melting snow, waterfalls from the above cliff and wind, they are really snow caves under an avalanche chute.”

There is a warning on the site about the caves: “Inviting as they look on a warm day, there are signs everywhere warning of the danger. Do not go into or climb on top of the caves!"

People have been killed in the area by avalanches in the spring and by collapsing snow bridges in the summer, according to the website. There is a plaque at the end of the trail in memory of Grace Tam, an 11-year-old girl who was killed in 2011, according to the site.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


11:03 p.m.: The story was updated with background information. 

The story was originally published at 10:41 p.m.