CONTACT:
Maj. Timothy Acerno: (603) 271-3127
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
March 23, 2004

Overdue Hikers Evacuated From Mt. Lafayette

CONCORD, N.H. -- A search and rescue effort in the White Mountains is nearing its conclusion for a couple from Andover, Massachusetts. Russell Cox was evacuated by helicopter from Mt. Lafayette this morning at around 10:00; rescue personnel said he was able to walk to a waiting ambulance and is now being treated for hypothermia at a local hospital. His wife, Brenda, is being evacuated from the mountain; she is unconscious and in advanced stages of hypothermia, and will be transported to a local hospital for treatment.

The search for Russell and Brenda Cox began Monday afternoon, March 22, when the hikers were reported overdue. A family member said that the couple set out for a day hike in the Whites on Sunday morning, with plans to return home that evening. Lt. Todd Bogardus of N.H. Fish and Game's Region 2 office, who is coordinating the effort, says that N.H. Army National Guard personnel flew a Blackhawk helicopter over the Franconia Ridge area on Monday, after the couple's car was found at the trailhead parking lot for the Falling Waters Trail off Franconia Notch State Parkway. Guard personnel saw no signs of the couple at that time. Search and rescue crews tried but were unable to get up to the ridge on foot because of severe weather conditions. The search was suspended around midnight Monday, and began again Tuesday morning, when search crews were shuttled to the Franconia Ridge Trail and into the Pemigewasset Wilderness by helicopter.

Russell and Brenda Cox were located by helicopter personnel at 9:53 this morning, on a rocky outcropping close to the summit of Mt. Lafayette. Mr. Cox was wearing a yellow jacket and actively signaling to search personnel. According to family members, the Coxes are experienced hikers, with winter hiking and camping experience, and they have hiked Mt. Lafayette several times in the past.

According to Lt. Bogardus, Russell Cox stated this morning that when he and his wife reached the Franconia Ridge Trail on Sunday afternoon, they could not see the cairns (trail markers) or follow the trail because of whiteout conditions. They built a snow cave, where they spent the night on Sunday. On Monday, they tried to move around, but were unable to make progress because of wind and weather; Lt. Bogardus said they "hunkered down" in a rocky cave.

Participating in the search and rescue are staff and volunteers from N.H. Fish and Game, the Mountain Rescue Service, the Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team, the Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue Team and New Hampshire Army National Guard.

No further details are available at this time.

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