SACRAMENTO — The body of a climber who ascended Mount Shasta then fell ill while pinned down by a storm near the peak has been found by search and rescue personnel.
The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office confirmed this morning that searchers found the body of Thomas Bennett, 26, who was last seen alive Saturday near Mount Shasta's 14,162-foot summit.
Discovery of the body ended slim hopes held by rescue personnel, friends and Bennett's family, who waited at a search assembly area at a Siskiyou County airport near the town of Weed, which is just northwest of the mountain.
Even though her son had been in windy, sub-freezing conditions for several day, Mary Kenny was hopeful before a rescue helicopter taking advantage of a break in the weather ferried a crew onto the mountain this morning.
"I'm sending that helicopter up with a heart full of hope and prayers," Kenny said as the helicopter headed toward the mountain.
A little over an hour later, about 10:15 a.m., the family was notified that searchers found the body of Bennett in a snow cave.
Bennett, a chemical engineer from Oakland, fell ill Sunday near the mountaintop. He had reached the summit Saturday with climbing partner Mark Thomas, 26, a structural engineer from Berkeley.
On the peak, they were surprised by an approaching storm and took shelter for the night behind boulders at about 14,000 feet.
Thomas told his father that the pair made it through the night in warm clothes and sleeping sacks and were in good spirits Sunday morning as they prepared to descend.
But Bennett collapsed while he was putting on his crampons and within 45 minutes was unresponsive, Jay Thomas said his son told him. Mark Thomas' efforts to revive the man were unsuccessful, his father said.
After putting Bennett in a snow cave with food and water, Thomas started down the mountain Sunday afternoon and on Monday was picked up by rangers on snowmobiles.
He told authorities he believed Bennett was suffering from severe altitude sickness and might have died.
Experts in high-altitude medicine said Wednesday that altitude sickness was an unlikely cause if Bennett suddenly collapsed and quickly slid into unconsciousness.
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