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Family who left 80-year-old behind on hike may face bill for rescue, N.H. officials say

A pair of hikers scales Mount Washington in New Hampshire in 2016. A family that left an 80-year-old hiker behind Thursday on the mountain may be billed for his rescue later that night, officials say. He suffered hypothermia.
A pair of hikers scales Mount Washington in New Hampshire in 2016. A family that left an 80-year-old hiker behind Thursday on the mountain may be billed for his rescue later that night, officials say. He suffered hypothermia. Associated Press file

An 80-year-old Ohio man hiking Mount Washington in New Hampshire found himself alone Thursday when two family members left him behind on their trek to the summit, The Boston Globe reports.

After climbing the peak and descending via a different trail, the man’s family called rangers at 7:45 p.m. to report he was “overdue, not prepared with overnight gear and did not have a cellphone or light,” New Hampshire Fish and Game officials wrote in a statement.

Rescuers set out in below-zero conditions with high winds and freezing rain to find the missing hiker, officials wrote.

The rescue team found the 80-year-old curled in a fetal position with possible hypothermia to the point that he was incoherent, officials wrote. A litter team reached the scene at 1:15 a.m. Friday and brought the lost hiker off the mountain at 5 a.m.

He was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, officials wrote.

A woman from New Jersey had died of exposure in another part of the White Mountains earlier Thursday, WMUR reported.

And on Friday, William Whittenaur, 69, of Lancaster, N.H., died of a heart attack while hiking on another nearby trail, according to the station.

New Hampshire officials are considering billing the 80-year-old hiker’s companions for the cost of his rescue, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.

“We will be looking at charges for the billing of the search and rescue,” said Major Dave Walsh, who said the man’s family broke several hiking rules by leaving him alone and failing to check on him, according to the publication.

The family also may face criminal charges for negligence, the Union Leader reported.

“They should have been better prepared in terms of equipment and clothing and never should have left him alone,” Walsh said, according to the publication. “I don’t know his physical shape, but he’s 80 years old.”

The hiker, however, says he told his grandsons to go on without him and that he’d catch up later, the Union Leader later reported.

“If anybody’s at fault, it’s definitely me and not those boys,” he said, according to the publication. “I’m the one who has insisted that they go ahead. So any negligence was on my part.”

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
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