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Utah woman killed in ice climbing accident likely saved her friend, sheriff's office says

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Posted at 11:55 AM, Apr 03, 2023

DUCHESNE COUNTY, Utah — After 36 hours of searching, the Duchesne County Sheriff’s Office recovered the body of a woman who was killed in an ice climbing accident Sunday.

The deceased victim was Meg O’Neill, age 41, from Salt Lake City. Her body was recovered Monday evening.

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Search and rescue crews were in Indian Canyon, 13 miles outside Duchesne, until the scene was cleared around 5 p.m. Monday evening.

On Sunday, three climbers were taking on the frozen Raven Falls when the ice fractured. One of the climbers fell 40 feet and suffered serious injuries. Another climber escaped without injury, but the third — O'Neill — was killed in the accident.

In an update Tuesday afternoon, the sheriff's office said O'Neill had become trapped underneath "two huge blocks of ice."

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But officials also said that before she became trapped by the falling ice column, she pushed her fellow climber out of the way — an action "which probably saved her life." That friend, a 21-year-old woman, was the one who managed to call 911 after climbing down and then driving to reach cell reception.

"Our sincere condolences to all effected by this tragedy, to the family of this brave, courageous woman who lost her life while saving another," the sheriff's office wrote. "We hope that all may find comfort and all the warm support will prevail over your hearts while mourning the loss of your loved one."

The 24-year-old male climber who fell 40 feet was flown via medical helicopter for emergency care. As of Tuesday, it was still not known what his condition was.

“[Meg O'Neill] constructed her entire life around service, and it’s something that’s really beautiful,” said Camille Fiducia.

Fiducia worked alongside O’Neill at Embark Outdoors, an organization that empowers young women through sports programs.

“Meg has this impressive outdoor resume. A very prolific climber in the Wasatch, and a very committed outdoors person,” she said.

Fiducia described O’Neill as “the heart and soul” of the program and as her partner-in-crime. O’Neill previously taught science at Utah International Charter School.

She and Fiducia shared an equal vision together “to make the outdoors a more inclusive place for underrepresented populations.”

“She didn’t chase after a job where she could make $200,000 a year. She chased after a job that would be fulfilling work, that are often the jobs that are thankless,” she said.

Right now, Fiducia says the nonprofit’s focus is creating an environment to allow the girls to process the loss, and eventually move forward with a memorial or tribute.

A bouquet of flowers currently sits on Right Fork Road in honor of her.

“If all of us can be one-eighth what Meg’s attitude of service were, what a change that could be in our local community,” she said.