A 27-year-old La Grande man died Sunday in a climbing accident on the north side of the Indian Rock area.
The accident claimed the life of Warren Lynn Webb, who died after his rope broke when he was 10 to 15 feet from the top of the rock he was climbing, according to Sgt. Nick Pallis of the Union County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities said Webb fell about 245 feet. It is not known if he died immediately.
The accident was reported at 3:11 p.m. by Webb’s wife, Nikki, who called 911. Webb was dead when emergency responders reached him, said Union County Sheriff’s Deputy Dane Jensen.
“It was a horrible tragedy,” Jensen said.
The deputy said that dealing with a situation where the victim has died before emergency responders can reach them takes a toll.
“We are trained to save lives. It is difficult when it is a recovery, not a rescue,” Jensen said.
Pallis said loose rock and gravel made climbing down Indian Rock to get to Webb a treacherous experience.
“We were slipping and sliding,” Pallis said.
He said the rock under their feet was similar to pea gravel.
Webb was pulled up in a rescue basket, with at least three people below supporting the rescue basket and 20 above pulling it up with ropes.
Nick Vora, a ropes specialist for Union County Search and Rescue, said that the situation was one of the most difficult he has encountered.
“It was about as challenging as I would like to deal with,” Vora said.
Pallis said he initially considered calling in a Life Flight helicopter to rescue Webb but then determined that he could be reached and brought back up without aircraft.
Emergency responders at the scene, in addition to those from the Union County Sheriff’s Office and Union County SAR, included the La Grande Rural Fire Department, the La Grande Fire Department and the Imbler Rural Fire Department.