1986 Oregon Episcopal School Tragedy on Mt. Hood: What Have We Learned?

Presented by: Jed Williamson & Lorca Smetana

Length of Webinar: 53 minutes

Resources:
The original article about this incident published in The Oregonian.
Potential Causes of Accidents in Outdoor Pursuits 
Lorca Smetana's TED Talk: A Hunger for Joy.

Webinar Description:
In 1986, two tragedies caught the attention of the media. The shuttle Challenger blew up while ascending, killing all seven of the crew, including Christa McAuliffe, a high school social studies teacher from Concord, NH. Some members of the Oregon Episcopal School tenth-grade class were attempting to complete the school’s required climb of Mt. Hood in May when a fierce storm caused eleven of them – two teachers, eight students, and a guide – to bivouac. The guide and one student descended the next morning for help. Two days later, rescuers found the remaining nine members. Only two survived.

The Chair of the Board of OES contacted Jed Williamson and asked him to conduct an investigation. He chose four others to join him. Their comprehensive report was printed in The Oregonian.

In this Webinar, he and Lorca Fitschen Semtana, a student who was on the mountain but had turned back early on, will discuss key aspects of the incident, covering topics that include:

  • What were the root causes of this accident?
  • Could this disaster have been avoided (Two of the major causes for both these incidents were identical)?
  • How safe are such activities?
  • Should we rely on others to make life and death decisions for us?
  • For those who survived, what effect did this event have on their lives over time, from the immediate days following into their adult lives?