A day after a deadly rock fall on El Capitan at Yosemite National Park, another, larger rock fall on the popular peak injured at least one person Thursday.
Thursday's rock fall occurred about 3:30 p.m., and initial reports had it being much larger than Wednesday's slide. One person was airlifted from the scene, and search and rescue personnel were searching through the rubble for more possible victims.
Climber Ryan Sheridan had just reached the top of El Capitan when the rock slide let loose below him Thursday. "There was so much smoke and debris," he told The Associated Press by cellphone from the top of El Capitan. "It filled the entire valley with smoke."
Sheridan had also reached the top of El Capitan a day earlier, when the first rock slide occurred and said this one was huge in comparison.
"It was in the same location of the previous rock fall. A larger rock fall let loose, easily three times the size," Sheridan said.
Authorities closed Northside Drive exiting Yosemite Valley due to slide debris, park officials said. They directed visitors to use Southside Drive to exit the valley.
Park rangers said rock falls are a common occurrence in Yosemite Valley, and the park records about 80 rock falls a year, though many more go unreported. However, it is not typical that there are victims.
On Wednesday, a man died and a woman was injured after a rock fall on a popular climbing route where at least 30 people were climbing, park officials said. He was identified as 32-year-old Andrew Foster of Wales, United Kingdom. His wife was undergoing treatment at a local hospital, park officials said.
The pair were hiking along a path at the base of El Capitan when the slide was triggered about 1:50 p.m.. Authories said they were buried by the rubble. Search-and-rescue teams raced in after the slide.
"The gentleman was discovered, unfortunately, deceased when we got to him," park Ranger Scott Gediman said. "They literally had to be dug out from the granite."
Justin Henderson was climbing just above the couple who was caught in the avalanche.
"We were worried, and then we heard the sirens," he said. "Then we saw helicopters, and then we were like, 'Who was it?' Because we had passed a couple earlier on the route."
Park rangers said Thursday the couple is from the United Kingdom, and officials were working to contact family members.
On Thursday, park officials said all people were accounted for in that incident. They said it was a naturally occurring rock slide, and the two victims were in the wrong place at the wrong time.