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Witness recalls Glacier National Park rockfall that killed a teen

The rocks shattered the rear windshield, fatally injuring the girl
Posted at 1:27 PM, Aug 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-14 15:27:56-04

A rockslide at Glacier National Park that killed a visiting teen is prompting a warning about potential dangers for tourists.

A family of five from Farr West in Utah was driving near the East Tunnel along Going To The Sun Road on Monday evening when their car was hit by falling rocks.

The rocks hit the top of the vehicle and shattered the rear windshield, fatally injuring the girl and also injuring her parents and two other children in the vehicle.

An A.L.E.R.T. air ambulance responded, but was unable to airlift the girl because of her unstable condition. Flight paramedics traveled with her via ground ambulance to a hospital in Kalispell, but the girl died en route. The girl's name has not been released.

The two adults sustained significant bruises and were taken to nearby hospitals by Babb and Browning ground ambulance. The two other children in the vehicle had minor injuries and also went by ambulance to a hospital.

Pat Cummings said she was driving down the road at the same time when traffic stopped amid sounds of terror.

"I could clearly hear a woman crying frantically, screaming, you know, 'Please help her. Someone please just help her,'" Cummings said. "If there had been more cars probably closer together, I do think it could have been worse."

Park officials confirmed the car was caught in a rockfall that generated enough debris to fill the bed of a pickup truck. Some of the rocks were a foot in diameter.

"Whether it's rain, whether it's wind...all of these things can cause rocks to fall," said Lauren Alley, a spokesperson for the park. "But rockfall in this magnitude is very unusual."

The rockslide happened on the 50-mile long "Going-to-the-Sun Road," driven by about two million people every year.

The last rockfall death on the road was more than two decades ago -- and the danger is not always preventable.

"It's a little bit tough to inspect the mountain above the road," Alley said. "Rocks are continually shedding as part of that geologic process."