Clackamas County

Family of climber who died on Mt. Hood sues for $10M

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- The family of a man who died after falling hundreds of feet on Mt. Hood last year is suing Clackamas County for $10 million in a wrongful death lawsuit. 

The suit, filed Monday morning in Clackamas County Circuit Court, alleges Clackamas County, along with the Sheriff's Office and its 9-1-1 dispatch, didn't request a helicopter in time after John Thornton Jenkins fell 600 feet while climbing the mountain. 

Jenkins, according to the lawsuit, fell down the mountain at approximately 10:40 a.m. The complaint said a 9-1-1 call was made eight minutes later, but a helicopter didn't touch down at the fall site until 3:11 p.m. 

Jenkins stopped breathing and his pulse ceased, the complaint said, when he was loaded into the helicopter. He later died at a Portland-area hospital. 

The lawsuit alleges Clackamas County authorities failed to provide proper, and timely, emergency assistance, among other things. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges a woman with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office told the person who called 9-1-1 to contact Timberline Ski Patrol, even though the caller allegedly reported Jenkins was a climber, not a skier, and that he was way above the ski area. 

KOIN 6 News obtained two 9-1-1 calls made to Clackamas County dispatch about Jenkins' fall. The first one was the initial call made by Jesse Cornett, another climber, at 10:48 a.m.; the second is made by a member of the Timberline Ski Patrol at 11:25 a.m.

The first emergency call said a man, presumed to be Jenkins, fell several hundred feet "head-over-heels several times." But the caller also said he thought the 9-1-1 call "may be premature."

"He's stable. He knows what day it is. I don't know if anything is broken," Cornett reported. "He's wearing a helmet, but he went head-over-heels several times ... there's a little bit of first responders here. I think this call may be premature, but I also wanted to get things in motion if necessary."

You can listen to both 9-1-1 calls below:

Clackamas County released a statement on Tuesday regarding the lawsuit.

“First and foremost, the county wants to extend condolences to the Jenkins family.

“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 timeline of the May 7. 2017 fall, according to the lawsuit, allegedly went like this: 

  • (10:40 a.m.): John Thornton Jenkins, while climbing way above the Timberline ski area, fell "several hundred feet."
  • (10:48 a.m.): A 9-1-1 call was made to Clackamas County, which was transferred to the sheriff's office. The lawsuit alleges nothing was done from that call.
  • (11:25 a.m.): Timberline Ski Patrol calls Clackamas County 9-1-1.
  • (11:37 a.m.): Portland Mountain Rescue asked Timberline Ski Patrol to request a helicopter.
  • (12:11 p.m.):  Portland Mountain Rescue told the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office to request a helicopter. 
  • (12:29 p.m.): Oregon Office of Emergency Management  requests a helicopter from the Army National Guard.
  • (3:11 p.m.) Helicopter arrives on scene.  

You can read the full lawsuit here.


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