Hiker from Mill Creek found dead

Woman was going to wash her hands in Wallace Falls

By CATHY LOGG

Herald Writer

GOLD BAR — Search and rescue volunteers on Monday recovered the body of a Mill Creek woman who fell 262 feet to her death at Wallace Falls near Gold Bar.

The woman and a friend began a day hike about 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Wallace Falls State Park. They had reached the upper falls and were on their way back when the woman said she was going to wash her hands in the falls. The friend sought help about 6:20 p.m. after the woman didn’t come back.

The victim’s name was withheld pending positive identification. The Snohomish County medical examiner will conduct an autopsy today.t

The woman, in her early 40s, apparently climbed over a fence at the middle falls and went to the water’s edge to wash her hands, Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jan Jorgensen said. She apparently plunged down the falls.

"This is a real tragedy for her and her family," Jorgensen said. Some of the woman’s family as well as her hiking companion were at the search command post when her body was found.

County search and rescue volunteers and a sheriff’s helicopter crew were unable to find her Sunday night. The volunteers resumed searching Monday morning, both on the ground and from the air.

A bloodhound and a tracker traced her to the water’s edge. A search and rescue helicopter crew spotted her body in the Wallace River about 12:15 p.m. downstream from a pool below the falls, Jorgensen said.

Rescuers from Snohomish and King counties used divers and a system of ropes and pulleys to recover the body about 2 p.m. Monday. Divers rappelled about 150 feet down from the helicopter in the narrow, steep canyon to the river. The divers got the body out of the water and arranged for the helicopter to lift it to a landing zone. Other rescuers on both sides of the river assisted in the operation. Park rangers also assisted during the search.

"We’re lucky that the water is low and the current is not as bad as it could be," Jorgensen said. "That’s a pretty treacherous situation."

Numerous people went to the park Monday planning to take advantage of the sunshine and hike, but all were turned away because of the rescue operation.

At least twice before, hikers have fallen at the middle falls, neither of them recently, Jorgensen said. A man was swept over the falls in August 1990 but survived and managed to swim to the side of the river. A woman also died there, Jorgensen said, but she didn’t recall the date.

"It’s very, very dangerous," Jorgensen said of the terrain at the falls. "People need to be very careful and enjoy the falls from a distance."

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