OGDEN, Utah – A doctor in Ogden was charged this week with false hypothermia for being airlifted from North America’s highest peak.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska on Tuesday indicted Dr. Jason Lance with three crimes related to incidents in May while attempting to climb Denali.
Lance is listed as a radiologist at the Ogden Clinic.
Court documents claim that Lance, 47, used a satellite device on May 24 to contact relief officials to be evacuated from the mountain after abandoning his summit attempt.
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When the officials rejected his request by replying “[t]The helicopter cannot come to your location and is no longer flying tonight, ”Lance replied,“ cannot descend (sic) safely. Patients in shock. Early hypothermia. “
Hearing that the climbers may be facing fatal conditions, authorities launched a rescue helicopter with supplies in the hope of reaching Lance and the other climbers. However, once in the air, the helicopter was told by guides that the climbers were descending on their own, according to court documents.
The other climbers later told officials that “none of them suffered any form of medical shock or hypothermia at any time during their ascent or descent,” contradicting Lance’s claims. They added that they “spent hours” trying to convince Lance to come down the mountain with them, but refused and the National Park Service was forced to rescue them because “we paid our fees.” .
Lance, 47, and a partner, identified in court documents as AR, were originally climbing Denali when AR “started showing symptoms of altitude sickness.” Lance left AR with a separate group as he continued to the top, but picked up his partner’s satellite device.
Noticing the worsening condition of the RAs, the other group stopped their attempt at the top to help the RAs descend. Lance then joined the group after abandoning his own attempt.
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During the descent, AR tumbled 1,000 feet from the top of Denali Pass. Seeing Lance motionless after his fall, Lance sent an SOS using the satellite device. A helicopter crew reached AR and found him alive but unconscious before transporting him to another location “where paramedics provided life-saving care.”
Later that evening, Lance made his own unsuccessful attempt to be airlifted out of the mountain.
The next day, Lance was interviewed by Denali NPS Ranger and Law Enforcement Officer Chris Erickson, who wanted to collect all of the RA’s personal effects to take to him or his family. Lance refused to give Erickson the satellite device.
Erickson warned Lance of the removal of “any message or information from the device,” then claimed the doctor entered his tent where the device was located and closed the walls. After receiving another warning, Lance reportedly replied that the NPS should have rescued him the night before. Lance got out of the tent after a few minutes and handed the device back.
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Subsequent investigation revealed that messages on the device between Lance and relief officials had been deleted.
Recontacted on May 26, Lance reiterated that the other climbers were suffering from hypothermia and shock, and that as a doctor he would recognize their condition better than the others.
Lance has been charged with interfering with a government employee, breaking a legal order and filing a false report.