U.A. Hikers Trapped In Storm; One Dead
Survivor Recounts Nightmare Fight With Cold High In Catalina Mountains; Carried Mate Until Strength Gave Out
A fight against the elements high in the Catalina mountains Saturday and Sunday caused the death early yesterday of William D. Burney, 19-year-old University of Arizona student, after he had been carried down from the mountain foothills and rushed to St. Mary's hospital. His companion, Ernest A. Taft, jr., 19, a fellow student who started out with him at 11 a.m. Saturday to climb to "The Window," a hole in a mountain ridge atop the Catalinas, was confined in the university infirmary but reported not in serious condition.
A sheriff's posse, headed by Undersheriff John C. Devine brought Burney out of the mountains and to the hospital about 3:30 o'clock yesterday morning after Taft had fought his way to the Hacienda del Sol girls school about 1:30 a.m. and reported their plight.
Carried Four Miles
Burney was unconscious when Devine and his men reached him. After carrying him for four miles through rugged foothill country to their car, which they had left at the foot of the trail leading up from Campbell avenue, he was rushed to the hospital. Warmth, rubbing, and finally an oxygen tank, failed to save his life.
Taft yesterday told how he and Burney left the university campus Saturday morning, clad in levis, cotton sweaters and leather jackets, to hike to "The Window." He said they realized late in the afternoon they would not be able to make it and started back down the mountain. They took a different canyon from the one which they had followed while climbing, however, and ran into a 300-foot drop, forcing them to turn back and find another way out.
Couldn't Make It
He said he and Burney retraced their steps but darkness began to descend when they still had a long way to go. They decided they could not make it and would have to spend the night in the mountains.
He said they gathered fire wood and built a fire under a rocky ledge which they believed would furnish them protection. He said it was about 7 o'clock Saturday night when they built the fire. About 11 o'clock it started to snow. About 1 a.m. their fire gave out and they were unable to find more wood in the darkness.
The two youths remained at the fire site until morning, battling snow and bitter winter winds. About a foot of snow fell during the night, Taft said. To get into the other canyon leading out of the mountains it was necessary to climb over a ridge separating it from the one they were in.
Burney Grows Dizzy
Taft said it took him and Burney about six hours through snow and over rocky mountainsides to get into the right canyon. Frequently they had to slap themselves to keep warm, and walking through the snow was difficult as they often could not see where they were going.
About 2 o'clock Sunday afternoon they were out of the worst of the snow, he said, and about 3 o'clock they reached a branch canyon.
Burney had begun to tire badly then and complained of feeling dizzy. About 5 o'clock they reached some cottonwoods where they found a trail. Taft said his companion sat down and said he couldn't go any farther. Each time he attempted to stand up he fell to the ground again. Taft said he believed Burney was "just tired out" so decided to stop a bit and let him rest. After resting, however, Burney was unable to get his feet again, although he crawled to a tree and pulled himself up, only to fall.
Carries Helpless Mate
Taft then carried Burney about a mile and a half down the trail. Burney was talking incoherently. Taft decided he would have to get him down and to a hospital as quickly as possible. Weary himself, he was forced to leave Burney by the trail and go ahead for help. He said he cautioned his companion to keep moving to keep warm and then set off down the trail. That was about 11:30 Sunday night.
At about 1:30 yesterday morning, he reached the Hacienda de Sol, where he found Bill Richards, who called the sheriff's office and reported what Taft told him. Devine and Ora Shinn and Louis Figueroa, deputies, left immediately for the scene, meeting Richards and Taft at the end of North Campbell avenue.
Taft went with the posse as guide as they started a four-mile hike to the place where Burney had been left. Deputy Figueroa located Burney when he heard him groaning. He was lying on his back with one leg raised in the air when they found him, Shinn said.
Never Regains Consciousness
Members of the posse attempted to restore circulation in Burney's body by rubbing him and placing a dry, warm coat on him, but with little success.
"His heart was beating a little but very weakly." Devine reported.
The posse then started back to the car, alternating in carrying Burney. An improvised stretcher gave out and Figueroa packed the unconscious youth for much of the four-mile trek, with assistance from Shinn, Devine and Richards.
Devine said they reached the hospital with Burney about 3:30 a. m. and that he died about half an hour later. He never regained consciousness, Devine said.
Officers' Efforts Futile
First report that the boys were missing was made to the sheriff's office at 11 o'clock Sunday morning by Dean A. H. Otis, dean of men at the university.
Devine said no one was able to tell him what trail the boys had taken into the mountains and that they checked every trail leading there Sunday afternoon but could find no one who had seen them.
Burney's parents, Mr. and Mrs. D. M. Burney had been advised that he was missing and arrived here Sunday night from Winslow. They were waiting at the car when the posse brought their unconscious son down off the mountain trail. Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Taft, Globe, who had likewise been informed, came here Sunday and were at the scene when the posse returned.
No Inquest Necessary
Coroner C. W. Gardner said no inquest would be held since there seemed to be no doubt that Burney died of exposure.
The body will be taken to Winslow today for funeral services and burial. Last night the body lay in the Reilly chapel and friends were allowed to view it.