Tragedy struck when two 19-year-old friends were killed after falling off a cliff while hiking in Oregon.
The bodies of Emma Place and Emily Lang were recovered on rocks beneath the cliff by a rescue team searching near Mount Hood on August 12.
“It looked like a freak accident,” Steve Rollins, the rescue leader of Portland Mountain Rescue, told The Oregonian. “A really sad freak accident.”
Place and Lang both attended the same high school in Portland and split apart to go to college. Lang attended Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington while Place studied at Gonzaga University in Spokane.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Women Appeared to Lose Their Footing on Rocks
Rollins said Place and Lang set up camp near the top of a waterfall on the Pacific Crest Trail with their hiking gear. At some point while walking around the area, the girls “lost their footing” on some rocks and fell, plummeting about 150 feet to their deaths.
Authorities said nobody actually saw the women fall from the cliff, however hikers that passed by the area hours later contacted them saying they saw their bodies. A group of rescuers located their bodies at around 11:50 p.m. Saturday and confirmed they were deceased.
Crews carried their bodies out of the area and back to Timberline Lodge the next day around noon.
2. Some Say the Hike is a Difficult One
Emergency workers the following day hiked to the location where the women were found and said it took them about an hour and a half to get there, Rollins to The Oregonian, adding that the route is about 6 miles and is considered a “difficult hike.”
“We started at Timberline, went west on the Round-the-Mountain trail to Zigzag Canyon and then went down and back,” he said. “There were a lot of twists and turns going down into and getting out of Zigzag Canyon.”
When they arrived at the site, they recovered two cell phones belonging to the women, one of them which was found in the water.
3. St. Mary’s Released an Emotional Statement in Lang & Place’s Memory
Place and Lang attended St. Mary’s together and graduated last spring. Upon learning the news that their former students had passed, the school released an emotional statement on its Facebook page:
Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the recent loss of two St. Mary’s students. Emily Lang ’16 and Emma Place ’16 were hiking together Saturday, August 12 and experienced a tragic accident. Our prayers, blessings and deepest condolences are with the family and friends of Emily and Emma.
Please join us as we gather as a community in prayer Tuesday, August 15 at 7pm in our school auditorium.
As a community, let us be here for one another in support, care, and prayer. In the words of Blessed Mother Marie Rose, “Since we tread along the same way, let us lend a hand to one another to help surmount the difficulties that present themselves.”
May the peace of the Lord be with us all and especially bless the families of Emily and Emma with courage and grace.
The statement brought forth an outpouring of messages from community members.
“Oh I’m so very sad and upset,” Facebook user Cassandra Brady wrote in a post. “My heart and prayers are with those wonderful families. I had children from both of the families. Emily was one of the dearest students I had. Emma was the little sister of one of my students. Gosh, I just can’t say enough…”
4. Place & Lang Each Were Heavily Involved in Their Communities
Both of the women were active on social media and had a slew of posts and photos together.
Place’s Facebook depicted a student that was politically aware. In January, she shared photos of the Women’s March to her account and also urged fellow students at Gonzaga to cease their support of publicly-traded fossil fuel companies. One post she shared was a news story about students at Gonzaga spreading positive messages around campus.
Lang’s Facebook page shows a photo her and Place together while doing what they loved to do: hike. She was a member of the Western Washington University hiking club and also the Western Community Outreach Facebook page. The university club is “dedicated to assisting and reaching out to community members who are homeless and struggling with housing stability,” the group’s description says.
5. Two Others Have Been Died on Mount Hood So Far This Year
The deaths of Place and Lang mark the third and fourth people who’ve died on Mount Hood so far this year, according to The Oregonian‘s tracker.
In March, 57-year-old Steve Leavitt died after he hit a tree while skiing in the lower Heather Canyon. He was wearing a helmet at the time of impact, but his body was buried in the snow that became compacted by rain. He was missing for eight days before his body was recovered.
In Mary, 32-year-old John Thorton Jenkins was killed while climbing a cliff in Hogsback.