Adventure sports event ends in tragic disaster as climbing wall collapses, leaving 4 people severely hurt

W hat should have resulted in a weekend of sports, adrenaline and fun, ended in a tragic disaster for four persons who were helping to set up the climbing event. In cooperation with Club Huascarán, Andes Pedal Club, Montañas Magicas, Amrach Rock, Galaxia Expeditions and Over – Operaciones Verticales, The Municipality of Huaraz organised the Semana del Andinismo y la Aventura Huaraz 2017, however, the climbing event was cancelled a day early without any notification from the organisers.

On Saturday the 2nd of September, strong winds caused a climbing wall to collapse at the Rataquenua Lookout Point above Huaraz, where a climbing competition organized by Over – Operaciones Verticales and Galaxia Expeditions was meant to take place the following day. According to our reporter, the wall was placed in front of a small concrete building on the hilltop but it didn’t resist the strong winds and collapsed. At the moment of the disaster, four climbers found themselves on the wall and fell approximately 10 metres on the rooftop of the concrete building. It is worth noting that these types of accidents are extremely rare, as climbing walls are normally secured well enough to resist any strong winds, and that although it was a windy day, it was nothing out of the ordinary for this time of year. Interestingly enough though, various reporters have been trying to conveniently blame the whole incident on Mother Nature. However, when one analyses the situation, we may come to the conclusion that the structure had neither been put up in the most secure way, nor in the safest location. This of course will not be known for certain until a full investigation takes place, which is very unlikely to happen given the current circumstances and that the climbing wall was removed from the location soon after the incident, so cannot be analysed. If no one is held responsible for this tragedy, unfortunately none of the victims are likely to receive any financial help or compensation.

The four people involved in the accident appear to be Vidal Chirihuani from Cusco, Lizeth Espinoza from Chile, Julio Anaya Mejia and Cesar Vicuña Pajuelo from Huaraz. Out of the four injured, Lizeth Espinoza was the luckiest as she could still walk after her fall. The other three were taken to the local hospital by ambulances at first. Cesar Vicuña Pajuelo has now left the hospital and appears to suffer from a cracked rib and back problems. It is believed that Julio Anaya Mejia suffered much more serious injuries, as did Vidal Chirihuani, who, so we were informed, had to be taken to Lima because of severe damages to his spinal cord. In Huaraz people are afraid he may never be able to walk again.

At the moment of publishing (almost three complete days after the tragedy), strangely and very worryingly at the same time neither the Municipality of Huaraz through their Tourism Promotion Office, nor Over – Operaciones Verticales have responded publicly to give explanations about the accident, nor has anyone claimed to be responsible.  Even weirder is that Over – Operaciones Verticales´ Facebook page was taken offline right after the accident happened and photos of the accident, which could be found in great numbers right after the accident, are now extremely scarce, which gives the impression that the accident at Rataquenua never happened at all. However, The Huaraz Telegraph has obtained a video of the happenings which we will publish in the forthcoming days and which may come useful in analyzing the safety of the structure. In the video the collapsed wall can be observed, as well as some of the four very unfortunate injured climbers. After the accident, the climbing event was cancelled and as stated before, no one from the Municipality has made any statement (yet).

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