10/30/2014

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Climber who died in fall on Mount Hood a identified as Catholic priest

Climber who died in fall on Mount Hood a identified as Catholic priest

MOUNT HOOD, Ore. – The Hood River County Sheriff's Office has identified the climber who fell about 1,000 feet on Mount Hood Tuesday morning as a Catholic priest from New Jersey.

They say 57-year-old Rev. Robert J. Cormier was from Jersey City, New Jersey.

From the air rescuers said they saw no signs of life from Cormier and he is believed to be dead.

Hood River County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Pete Hughes said rescuers will wait until next week to recover Cormier's body, when colder temperatures would afford more stability. Temperatures at the summit on Tuesday reached 47 degrees.

Searchers in a fixed-wing plane spotted Cormier at around the 10,500-foot level, according to Hughes. A helicopter photographed the man but he appeared to be dead. The man was caught on a rock ledge.

Father Cormier ascended the south side of Mount Hood on Tuesday with three others, one of whom suffered a leg cramp, Hughes said.
   
He continued heading up alone and appeared to reach the summit before falling at about 8 a.m. near Eliot Glacier at the volcanic peak 50 miles east of Portland.

Father Cormier and the other three climbers were visiting from the East Coast.

He was looking over the east side of the mountain when he fell down the northeast slope, according to the sheriff's office.

News of Father Cormier's death quickly got to the Archdiocese of Newark in New Jersey. 

“It was a true shock as we learned today about his passing, and we’re certainly very concerned about his family, concerned about his parish, and all the people who’ve been part of his life," said Jim Goodness, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark, and a friend of Father Comier for the past 15-years.

He was ordained in as a Catholic priest in 1982, and was named "administrator" of Saint Patricks and Ascention in Jersey City.

“He has been very active in Hispanic ministry, and outreach to community, a truly dedicated man," Goodness said. 

Father Cormier was also an author of a book and other readings on faith and religion.  He was also the spiritual director of the Internet-based radio station "Radio InMaculada." And, he was fluent in five languages.

“He spoke Spanish, Portugese, French, Italian, as well as English," Goodness.

Father Cormier was also an adventurer. He also wrote about his trip to Mount Hood on his Facebook page over the weekend. It was his last post.

"With today's message I am pleased to announce to you that on Monday I am leaving on what will likely be my last attempt to climb a big mountain," he wrote. "In this case it is Mount Hood in Oregon. We have been at this kind of thing for 40 years and are very much hoping to finish with a victory. I will report to you next Saturday."

“He was someone who enjoyed and treasured the beauty of the world, and all of its shapes and colors," said Goodness.

Father Cormier's biography says in addition to being a priest, he was also a pilot, a mountain climber, a sailor, a cave explorer, a scuba driver and a bus driver.

Thousands of people climb the 11,240-foot peak each year. Spring is the prime season because the weather is better but not so warm that the ice melts and rocks fall more readily. The peak is notorious for loose rock in warm weather.

Crews won't attempt to reetrieve Father Comier's body from the mountain until sometime next week.  The forecast is calling for a snap of hot weather that will make conditions unsafe for them.

Goodness said once Father Comier's body is off the mountain, the Archdiocese of Newark with work with his family on funeral arrangements. He is survived by his mother and a sister.

When asked what people in Oregon can do for the diocese and Father Cominer's family during this time, Goodness said, "I think prayer, and just recognizing this was a very special man.”

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