Romanian mountain climber Eduard Briceag died on the Rainier mountain, near Seattle (Washington state), because of an out-of-the-blue blizzard, The News Tribune informs. 31-year old Eduard Burceag tried to save his wife, Mariana, and his friend, Daniel Vlad. All three were experienced climbers, but did not carry the necessary equipment for such severe weather conditions.

The News Tribune article:

The hikers dug a trench to escape the snow and 55 mph winds, and Burceag lay in the bottom with his wife, Mariana, 31, and friend, Daniel Vlad, 34, on top of him, incident commander David Gottlieb said.

In this position, he would have taken the brunt of the punishment, Gottlieb said. When his friend and wife tried to rotate positions with him, he refused, Gottlieb said.

The three, who were natives of Romania, were experienced climbers. Eduard Burceag and Vlad both worked as engineers.

A helicopter from the Fort Lewis-based 159th Aviation Regiment of the Army Reserve lifted the survivors off the mountain from Camp Muir at 6:15 a.m. Wednesday. Climbing rangers carried Burceag’s body off the mountain in the afternoon.

Mariana Burceag and Vlad were flown to Madigan Army Medical Center then transported by ambulance to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. They were treated and released by 1 p.m. said hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg-Hanson. They will have a follow-up examination in the coming weeks.

Eduard Burceag’s body was off the mountain by 5:30 p.m. and taken to the Pierce County Medical Examiner, Gottlieb said.

The hikers were attempting to descend from Camp Muir at 10,188 feet to their car at Paradise, 5,400 feet above sea level, Monday when they were surprised by the storm. Gottlieb said the hikers were well prepared for their hike, but did not have gear for spending the night in such severe conditions. They did not have a tent or sleeping bags.

According to the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center, by 9 p.m. Monday the temperature was 6 degrees with wind gusts as high as 55 mph. With wind chill factor the temperature could have been as cold as minus-20 degrees.

The hikers reportedly lost the trail in whiteout conditions and after failing to locate it dug a trench near Anvil Rock, just 604 vertical feet below Camp Muir. Two feet of new snow was reported at Paradise Monday night.

Gottlieb said the men sandwiched Mariana between them with Eduard taking the position against the snow.

“He basically held up his wife and friend,” Gottlieb said.

Mariana and Vlad suffered severe hypothermia and frostbite. The hikers tried repeatedly to call for help and finally reached 911 at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday. However, conditions were too severe to launch a rescue team.

Vlad hiked through the storm back to Camp Muir at 7:15 a.m. and led a team of guides and rangers to the trench. The team took the hikers back to the Ranger hut at Camp Muir where they determined Eduard Burceag had died.

The severe weather kept helicopter crews from retrieving the survivors at Camp Muir Tuesday.

However, with a cloud ceiling just above Camp Muir on Wednesday morning the Fort Lewis unit was able to lift Mariana and Vlad into the helicopter with the help of climbing rangers Kevin Hammonds and Joseph Franklin.

The unit’s Alpha Company has been involved in most of the rescues on Mount Rainier’s upper slopes and has even outfitted its Chinook helicopter with plywood floors so rangers can walk in their crampons.

While the unit helps with rescues, it does not participate in recovery efforts.

A private helicopter was scheduled to lift Burceag’s body off the mountain, but when the weather didn’t clear, Gottlieb instructed his team to carry the body off the mountain.

The survivors issued a statement via park spokesman Kevin Bacher requesting the media not contact them.