Yosemite rock fall tragedy: Husband died shielding Shropshire-born wife
A climber died after selflessly shielding his Shropshire-born wife from falling rocks at America's Yosemite National Park, an inquest heard.
Andrew Foster, 32, was killed when 250 cubic metres of rock fell from the face of the El Capitan monolith on September 27 last year.
Gloucestershire Coroner’s Court heard Mr Foster was seen running back to the rockfall to protect his wife, Lucy Foster, 28, originally from Market Drayton, and dived on top of her – saving her life.
The pair, who lived in Cardiff, were on a week-long climbing trip to the national park with another British couple.
Mr and Mrs Foster had just had lunch and were returning to their campsite when the rock plummeted – including boulders described as “the size of vehicles” – on top of them from a height of 200 metres.
In a report from the National Park Service, which was read to the court, eyewitnesses described Mrs Foster telling them afterwards: “He saved me.”
The park service report said: “Moments after leaving, the first rockfall began to take place. Witnesses who were climbing in the area described the rocks as the size of vehicles.
“Lucy was walking approximately 50 metres behind Andrew when they heard the rocks begin to fall above them.
“Andrew yelled back to Lucy to run. As she began to run she lost her footing on the uneven terrain, causing her to fall to the ground.
“While on the ground Lucy began to hear large rocks strike the ground near her.
“After yelling to Lucy and witnessing her fall to the ground, Andrew ran back to Lucy, who was still on the ground.
“Andrew lay his body on top of Lucy, shielding her body from the rocks as they began to fall down on top of them.
“As the dust settled and the rocks stopped falling, Lucy saw Andrew was now lying beside her.
“Lucy was partially trapped by rocks on her legs. Lucy was able to successfully free herself and began shouting for help.”
The inquest heard that the Fosters were caught in the first rockfall shortly before 2pm, with another six happening later.
Other climbers who witnessed the accident alerted the emergency services and Mr Foster was pronounced dead at 4pm.
A post-mortem examination in the US concluded Mr Foster died from cranio-cerebral injuries.
After the accident Mrs Foster was airlifted to the trauma unit of a local hospital where her condition was stabilised. No details of the injuries Mrs Foster suffered were disclosed.
Assistant coroner Caroline Saunders recorded a conclusion that Mr Foster died as a result of an accident, saying she had heard no evidence that he was not suitably prepared for the climb or that the authorities had any warnings to avoid the area.
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“The evidence shows that Andrew and Lucy began climbing El Capitan at about 7.15am and at 8am embarked on the east buttress route,” she said.
“The climb was not straightforward and was taking longer than expected and so, sensibly, they chose to pause, have some food, and made plans to return to base.
“Shortly afterwards they were caught in an unexpected rockfall. Andrew was aware that his wife Lucy was in danger and took the loving and selfless act of protecting her from the fall using his own body to shield her from the rocks.”
“In the event Andrew suffered fatal injuries and despite the emergency and rescue services being called it is clear the injuries were immediately unsurvivable.”
Mr Foster proposed to his wife during a skiing holiday in the Alps in 2015 and they married the following year.
Mr Foster, who grew up in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, before attending Cardiff University, worked for clothing company Patagonia and was previously employed by outdoor store Up And Under.
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