FAIRBANKS, Alaska — An Ogden doctor pleaded guilty Friday after being accused of faking hypothermia so that he could be airlifted off an Alaskan mountain last May.
Appearing remotely during a hearing in Fairbanks, Dr. Jason Lance plead guilty to violating a lawful order of a government employee when he refused to hand over a satellite device to a National Park Service ranger when asked to so.
Court documents claimed Lance, a radiologist with the Ogden Clinic, originally used the satellite device on May 24 to get evacuated off Denali after abandoning a summit attempt. After his request was denied due to unsafe flying conditions, Lance claimed people in his group were in shock and suffering from early hypothermia.
With patients in medical danger, authorities launched a helicopter in hopes of getting supplies to Lance and the other climbers. However, once in the air, the helicopter was informed by guides that the climbers were descending under their own power, according to court documents.
The other climbers later told officials that none had suffered from shock or hypothermia. They added that Lance had at first refused to descend with them because the National Park Service was obligated to rescue them because, he allegedly said, "we've paid our fee."
Lance originally began climbing with a partner identified as A.R., who he left behind after A.R. began experiencing symptoms of altitude sickness. Before leaving, Lance took his partner's Garmin satellite device.
Noticing A.R.s worsening condition, another group stopped to help A.R. descend. Lance later rejoined the group after abandoning his own attempt to summit the mountain.
During the descent, A.R. tumbled 1,000 feet from the top of Denali Pass. Seeing A.R. laying motionless after his fall, Lance sent an SOS using the satellite device. A helicopter crew reached A.R. and found him alive but unresponsive before transporting him to another location "where paramedics provided life-saving treatment."
Later in the evening, Lance made his own failed attempt to be airlifted off the mountain.
When Lance was interviewed the following day by Denali NPS Mountaineering Ranger and Law Enforcement Officer Chris Erickson, he refused to hand over the satellite device. After being told by the Erickson not to delete any messages or information from the device, Lance went inside a tent before going back outside and gave the ranger the Garmin.
A later investigation found that messages on the device between Lance and rescue officials had been deleted.
The charge Lance plead guilty to was disregarding the ranger's plea to hand over the device.
Sentencing for the charge will take place on March 24.