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A Utah ice climber was killed by falling ice after saving her friend's life

Utah's Meg O'Neill died on Sunday after a part of the frozen waterfall she was climbing cracked and plummeted.
Capt. John Crowley
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Duchesne County Sheriff's office
Utah's Meg O'Neill died on Sunday after a part of the frozen waterfall she was climbing cracked and plummeted.

An ice climber sacrificed her own life to save another climber in Utah on Sunday, according to local authorities.

Three climbers were attempting to ascend the frozen Raven Falls near Indian Canyon when the formation broke and collapsed, according to a press release from the Duchesne County Sheriff's Office.

One climber, a 34-year-old male who has yet to be named by authorities, fell approximately 40 feet but survived, and was transported by helicopter to a local hospital with serious injuries.

A second climber who police later identified as Margaret "Meg" O'Neill pushed a third person, her 21-year-old companion, out of the way of the falling column. The move "probably saved her life," the sheriff's office said. The 21-year-old was able to climb down and drive to find enough cell phone reception to call 911.

Search and rescue crews were on the scene until 5 p.m. local time on Monday, reports Fox 13 News. They found O'Neill's body "trapped underneath two huge blocks of ice," according to the sheriff's office.

Search and rescue crews stayed on the scene at Raven Falls until O'Neill's body could be recovered.
Capt. John Crowley / Duschesne County Sheriff's Office
/
Duschesne County Sheriff's Office
Search and rescue crews stayed on the scene at Raven Falls until O'Neill's body could be recovered.

"Our sincere condolences to all effected by this tragedy, to the family of this brave, courageous woman who lost her life while saving another," the office added.

O'Neill, age 43, served as Assistant Director for Embark Outdoors, a nonprofit facilitating outdoor sports and education for refugee women and girls.

"Most of our girls have known Meg for half their life. She'd been a mentor to them since 7th grade. She was the heart and soul of this program, as you all well know," Embark wrote in an Instagram post on Tuesday.

In comments, others remembered O'Neill as "the epitome of a community leader — the most badass advocate" and a "champion for every woman and girl in the outdoors."

In an interview with Fox 13, Embark's Executive Director Camille Fiducia said O'Neill had an impressive climbing resume and plenty of outdoors experience, but her true passion was being of service to others.

"If all of us could be one-eighth of what Meg's attitude of service was, what a change that could be," she said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.
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