Woman Crushed While Saving Belayer From Falling Block of Ice

The Utah climbing community at large today mourns a climber who sacrificed herself to rescue a fellow ice climber.

This article was originally published on GearJunkie.

Meg O’Neill, an ice climber from Salt Lake City, Utah, died in an ice collapse at Raven Falls in Utah’s Duchesne County on April 2, according to reports.

The Duchesne County Sheriff’s Office has not identified the 41-year-old, pending the notification of all family members. But Embark Outdoors, where O’Neill served as assistant director, confirmed her death in the incident via social media.

O’Neill was at the frozen waterfall alongside two other climbers, a 21-year-old belayer and a 34-year-old leader, when an ice column collapsed. Rescuers airlifted the leader to a hospital with serious injuries, and the 21-year-old survived — thanks in part to O’Neill, authorities said.

Three scenes from the rescue: an air lift helicopter lowering a rescuer, a rescuer on the ground with a backpack and chainsaws, and flowers placed among ice climbing gear

Scenes from the April 2 rescue and aftermath. Photo: Duchesne County Sheriff’s Office


Pushed belayer to safety

According to the official report, the column cut loose and caused the leader to fall approximately 12 meters. O’Neill, standing below, pushed the belayer out of the way of the falling ice, “which probably saved her life,” the report stated. Tragically, O’Neill became “trapped underneath two huge blocks of ice and did not survive.”

The belayer was able to scramble down from the location and call 911 from nearby Duchesne City.

The condition of the injured leader remains unknown at the time of writing.

Embark Outdoors is a Utah-based nonprofit that seeks to “empower refugee young women through outdoor education and sports.” In an Instagram post confirming O’Neill’s death, the organization said “it’s confirmed that it happened instantly.”


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A post shared by Embark (@embark.outdoors)

“In an act so true to Meg, she made sure the others on the ground were safe before she was killed by falling debris,” the post said. “She was the heart and soul of this program, as you all well know. The devastating ripple of this has just begun.”

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.