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An 80-year-old hiker found in the freezing cold last week on New Hampshire's Mount Washington may be on the hook for the cost of his rescue, officials said Tuesday.
James Clark was found Friday in the fetal position with signs of hypothermia, hours after telling his two grandsons to continue on without him.
Authorities may file criminal charges in the case, said Maj. David Walsh of the state’s Fish and Game Department.
“This probably wouldn’t have happened,” had the group stayed together, said Fish and Game Lt. Mark Ober.
Investigators are still in the early stages of a probe, Walsh said, adding that he could not say what charges could be leveled, or who precisely might be charged. Clark, of Dublin, Ohio, blamed himself for telling the teens – -Kevin McNerney, 19, and his 14-year-old brother, Aidan — to go ahead to the summit of the mountain, The New Hampshire Union-Leader said.
In this July 27, 2016, file photo, a pair of hikers traverse a trail on Mount Washington. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)
Because Clark wasn't wearing the proper clothing to climb up the mountain in the freezing rain, Fish and Game will most likely recommend he pay the cost of his rescue. It was not clear how much he could be charged, though bills can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
The request stems from a law allowing the state to recoup the costs associated with rescues when it is determined thatg a person acted negligently.
“People think it’s a walk in the park,” said Ober.
He said 150 people have died around Mount Washington since the 1800s.
The teens called search and rescue officers after reaching the summit and not seeing Clark. Rescuers gave him warm clothes and carried two miles to a road where an ambulance picked him up to take him to a hospital.
He was treated and released Saturday.
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“They don’t understand that it could be 70 degrees at the base and it will be 12 degrees with blowing wind and snow potentially at the summit,” Ober said.
The agency recommended nine people be billed for emergency services this year and 25 in 2018.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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