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Ogden doctor charged with faking hypothermia to get airlifted off mountain

Posted at 11:05 AM, Nov 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 09:27:49-05

OGDEN, Utah — An Ogden doctor was charged this week with faking hypothermia to be airlifted off the highest mountain peak in North America.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska charged Dr. Jason Lance on Tuesday with three crimes connected to incidents that occurred in May as he attempted to summit Denali.

Lance is listed as a radiologist with the Ogden Clinic.

Court documents claim Lance, 47, used a satellite device on May 24 to contact rescue officials to get evacuated off the mountain after abandoning his attempt to summit.

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When officials denied his request by responding "[t]he helicopter cannot come to your location and is not flying any more tonight," Lance wrote back, "Cant decend (sic) safely. Patients in shock. Early hypothermia."

Hearing climbers were possibly facing fatal conditions, authorities launched a rescue helicopter with supplies in hopes of reaching 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 "neither of them had suffered from any form of medical shock or hypothermia at any point during their ascent or descent," contradicting Lance's claims. They added that they "spent hours" trying to convince Lance to descend the mountain with them, but that he refused and that the National Park Service was obligated to rescue them because "we've paid our fee."

Lance, 47, and a partner, identified in court documents as A.R., were originally climbing Denali when A.R. "begin to exhibit symptoms of altitude sickness." Lance left A.R. behind with a separate group as he continued towards the summit, but took his partner's satellite device.

Noticing A.R.s worsening condition, the other group stopped their summit attempt to help A.R. descend. Lance later rejoined the group after abandoning his own attempt.

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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.

The following day, Lance was interviewed by Denali NPS Mountaineering Ranger and Law Enforcement Officer Chris Erickson who wanted to collect all of A.R.s personal belongings to get them to him or his family. Lance refused to give Erickson the satellite device.

Erickson warned Lance about deleting "any messages or information from the device," and then claimed the doctor went inside his tent where the device was located and zipped up the walls. After receiving another warning, Lance allegedly responded that the NPS should have rescued him the previous night. Lance exited the tent after a few minutes and handed over the device.

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A later investigation found that messages on the device between Lance and rescue officials had been deleted.

When contacted again on May 26, Lance reiterated that the other climbers were suffering from hypothermia and shock, and that as a doctor, he would recognize their conditions better than the others.

Lance was charged with interference with a government employee, violating a lawful order and filing a false report.