OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Two OSU students die in mountain accident

05/31/2002

CORVALLIS - Two Oregon State University students died in a mountaineering accident that claimed a total of three lives earlier this week on Mount Rainier in Washington state.

The students who died in the incident are Cornelius Beilharz, a master's candidate studying electrical and computer engineering from Stuttgart, Germany; and Keeta Owens, a senior majoring in zoology from Lebanon, Ore. The name of a third victim, a resident of Germany, is being withheld pending notification of relatives.

Surviving the incident was Andreas Kurth of Dresden, Germany, who is a doctoral candidate at a university in Germany and currently doing research in an OSU laboratory.

The two OSU students were members of the OSU Mountaineering Club, but the climb on which the fatal accidents occurred was not sponsored by that club, university officials say.

According to Maria Gillett, a spokeswoman for Mount Rainier National Park, the group of four climbers was attempting to scale Mount Rainier and had reached the summit of Liberty Cap when stormy weather, high winds and blowing snow began to cause serious problems on the evening of Tuesday, May 28.

High winds made their tents unusable and the climbers dug snow caves, Gillett said. But at some point during the night, one of the climbers fell several hundred feet and the snow caves collapsed. Kurth, the survivor, also fell some distance down the mountain, became separated from the group and was unable to climb back up due to the loss of one of his boots, Gillett said. He was able to climb down the Winthrop Glacier.

About 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning Kurth met some other climbers, borrowed a cell phone and alerted authorities to the incident. Rescue efforts commenced immediately by teams of rangers, and the last of the bodies was removed from the mountain Thursday afternoon.