A British climber who died after being crushed by a huge boulder saved his wife’s life by diving on top of her.
Andrew Foster, 32, and his wife Lucy Foster, 28, from Cardiff, were crushed under tons of falling rock as they prepared for their climb at Yosemite’s El Capitan in California.
Mrs Foster told her family that her husband, an experienced climber, dived on top of her as the rock fell, saving her life.
She suffered from two broken ribs and a punctured lung in the fall but is expected to make a full recovery, thanks to his heroics.
Andrew Foster, 32, and his wife Lucy Foster, 28, from Cardiff, were buried under tons of falling rock as they prepared for their climb at Yosemite’s El Capitan in California
Mr Foster (left, at Yosemite on the day he was killed and, right, at Heathrow Airport as the couple headed to California) died when a piece of granite measuring 131ft x 65ft tore away from the famous rock formation at 1.55pm on Wednesday
Mrs Foster told her family that her husband, an experienced climber, dived on top of her as the rock fell, saving her life
His auntie, Gillian Stephens, told The Times: ‘She said: “Andrew saved my life. He dived on top of me as soon as he could see what was going to happen. He saved my life.”
‘They were so devoted to each other. It really was a love story.
‘This trip was to celebrate their first anniversary. My sister took them to the airport three weeks ago. They were so happy.’
Mr Foster’s parents, from Cheltenham, were due to arrive in America last night to recover their son’s body.
Mr Foster died when a piece of granite measuring 131ft x 65ft tore away from the famous rock formation at 1.55pm on Wednesday. They had not yet begun climbing when he became completely buried by the shattered rock, which rained down on the base.
The couple, who were big adventurers and wrote a blog about their experiences, were married a year ago and the three-week trip to the Yosemite National Park in California was part of their first wedding anniversary celebrations.
This is the view of another climber of a rockslide on Yosemite’s El Capitan which killed Welshman Andrew Foster on Wednesday
Mr Foster was posing for the camera on September 13 – the couple’s first day in Yosemite (left). An onlooker across the valley captured this image (right) of the rock fall from across the valley on Wednesday
A cloud of dust is seen on El Capitan after the major rock fall in Yosemite National Park, which killed the British climber
The pair, who met in university, state on their blog: ‘We are a young married couple who enjoy nothing more than getting out and having adventures in the mountains together.
‘We are not extreme athletes and describe ourselves simply as passionate weekend warriors. We hope to inspire other people to get out and experience the natural world.’
Mr and Mrs Foster were found by a search and rescue team at the base of the rock formation shortly after the fall on Wednesday.
‘The victims, a couple visiting from Great Britain, were in the park to rock climb but were not climbing at the time of the initial rock fall.
‘The male was found deceased and the female was flown out of the park with serious injuries,’ Yosemite National Park spokesman Scott Gediman said.
The couple had not yet begun their ascent but were wearing climbing gear at the time.
‘With all the craziness I don’t exactly know where they were going but chances are they were going up,’ Gediman added.
‘From what I understand they were buried under rock… They were crushed by falling rocks.’
He could not be specific about their injuries but said they were ‘consistent with tonnes of granite falling on you’.
A family friend, who delivered a food parcel to Lucy’s mother Jennifer, 57, said: ‘It’s very shocking and it’s a terrible time for the family.
‘I know Brian has flown out to be with Lucy and Jennifer has remained at home. I can’t really say a lot as I think it’s down to the family to comment.’
There was a large presence of park rangers and emergency services until late in the afternoon
This before (left) and after picture shows the section of El Capitan where the rock fell from on Wednesday
The pair, who met in university, state on their blog: ‘We are a young married couple who enjoy nothing more than getting out and having adventures in the mountains together’
They were keen skiers and Mr Foster proposed while they were on a slope in the French Alps in March 2015
Mr Foster (left, on the couple’s wedding day last year and, right, climbing a mountain) was a manager with outdoors equipment and clothing company Patagonia. Lucy also worked in the industry and the pair spent all their spare time in the great outdoors
Another neighbour said: ‘Andrew and Lucy were a lovely, young married couple. It’s so sad to hear the news this morning. They would always chat whenever they visited her parents
‘They haven’t been married long and were always off on holidays and adventures. They were real thrillseekers and loved hiking.’
The couple had been training for the expedition for six months and flew off to the States on September 11 along with other members of their climbing club.
Mr Foster was a manager with outdoors equipment and clothing company Patagonia. Mrs Foster also worked in the industry and the pair spent all their spare time in the great outdoors.
They were keen skiers and Mr Foster proposed while they were on a slope in the French Alps in March 2015.
The couple practiced for their trip to Yosemite by climbing cliffs in Cornwall and Pembrokeshire.
Mrs Foster told her friends they were both ‘Yosemite virgins’ but were prepared for the trip and had bought expensive climbing gear.
The couple (pictured, on their big day last year), who were big adventurers and wrote a blog about experienes, were married a year ago and the three-week trip to the Yosemite National Park in California was part of their first wedding anniversary celebrations
The couple practiced for their trip to Yosemite by climbing cliffs in Cornwall and Pembrokeshire (left)
The pair were hit by the falling boulders as they planned the highlight of their holiday – the ascent of El Capitan
Mr Foster even gave other climbers advice on scaling a ‘big wall’ a nickname for an ascent like El Capitan which they were about to start.
The day before the tragedy he was pictured in the national park looking exhausted and smiling at the camera.
Mrs Foster put a chilling caption underneath saying: ‘Yosemite has broken Andy.’
The pair were hit by the falling boulders as they planned the highlight of their holiday – the ascent of El Capitan.
Mr Foster was from Cheltenham while Mrs Foster grew up in Market Drayton, Shropshire.
Staff at the Cardiff-based Patagonia said in a statement: ‘Andy Foster was an inspirational member of the Up and Under family.
‘He was a highly regarded member of staff for five years, before he took a job with Patagonia.
‘He remained a dedicated friend of Up and Under, and was regularly to be found in the store. His passion for the outdoors, and mountains in particular, was enormous and infectious.
‘Andy and Lucy’s intentions upon returning from Yosemite were, with the help of Andy’s father, to covert a van into a motorhome to enable them to explore the European Alps for the next 12 months.
‘It was then our hope that Andy would return to Up and Under in a part time consultative role, whilst he also chased other ambitions.
‘Andy was highly respected, loved and his loss will be sorely felt by us all. Our thoughts are with Lucy and his family.’
Site of tragedy: The huge crater where the massive block broke lose and fell 2,000ft to the valley floor can be seen in the center of this image
Vikki Glinkskii (bottom right) a climber steward with Ask A Climber, calls her boss from El Capitan Meadow to tell him about a new rockfall, as white dust is thrown into the air at the Waterfall Route on El Capitan
Friend Jess Spate wrote on Facebook said: ‘Rest in peace Andrew Foster. Always cheerful, never a mean word to say about anyone, up for anything, anytime.
‘Never so much as a cross word even when he must have been as cold and tired as it’s possible to be while still walking.
‘There’s nobody I’d rather climb a rapidly thawing frozen waterfall with at 2am on a work night.
‘Nobody better to play hangman with at midnight in Cardiff City Hall, waiting to impersonate beautiful female ninjas. Nobody better to be topping out of a mountain route with when the weather turned.
‘Those times will never be forgotten because they are part of who I am. I know that everyone who met Andy liked him because it was impossible not to.
‘Everyone who climbed with him will remember his good humour and his unrivalled sense of adventure.
‘Go hard my friend. May the skies always be clear for you and the thermometer stay below -5.’
A second rockfall occurred at the famous California climbing spot on Thursday afternoon. It injured one person whose condition is not known.
Sixteen people have been killed and 100 others injured in rock falls since park records began in 1857.
The last fatality was in June 1999, when climber Peter Terbush was killed below Glacier Point.
El Capitan, one of Yosemite’s best-known landmarks, is considered a world-class challenge for rock climbers.
The horrific rock fall was witnessed by another climber who captured the incident on camera.
WHAT CAUSES ROCK FALL IN YOSEMITE?
Rock fall in Yosemite is impossible to predict and is caused by geological processes that fracture the granite faces of the valley over thousands of years.
Erosion caused by freeze-thaw cycles, waterfalls and the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates gradually creates fractures in the rock.
Rock fall occurs when these fractures completely separate a block or blocks from the face .
The large piles of boulders knows as talus at the foot of every face in Yosemite are created by rock fall.
Around 1,000 large rockfalls have been recorded in Yosemite over the past 150 years.
The climber watched an apartment-sized block of rock break free from El Capitan and hurtle thousands of feet to the valley below killing one person.
Ryan Sheridan took the image on Wednesday as the huge 100ft x 100ft block of granite disintegrated into an avalanche of boulders as it fell to the ground from 2,000ft up.
Large rock fall happens a few times a year at Yosemite but there is no way to predict when or where it will occur. Thousands of stunned tourists witnessed the tragedy at 1.55pm but none were hurt.
As he posted the image to Facebook, professional climber Sheridan wrote: ‘We are alright, hoping for a good outcome for the people approaching east buttress’
Around 30 climbers were on El Capitan at the time of the rockfall on the Waterfall Route but they appear to be unharmed.
Another witness who saw the slide from above said he saw the rockfall hit two climbers as they walked to the bottom of the face which is one of the most famous symbols of America’s national parks.
Peter Zabrok said he saw the two climbers walking below the rock fall and one of them get hit and buried. When his companion tired to run to his aid he was also hit by more rocks plummeting down the face.
Zabrok, who spoke to DailyMail.com on Wednesday night as he made his way back to base, narrowly avoided death.
He had just climbed above the piece of the rock which tore off when he watched from a ‘birds eye view’ as it fell away.
He said: ‘We were climbing the route where the rockfall occurred and we got a bird’s-eye view of the rockfall.
Aftermath: This was survivor Peter Zabrok’s view after the rockfall. The huge debris field of boulders can be seen bottom right
A helicopter carries an emergency worker with one of those rescued on a winch to safety
‘I observed a 100 foot by 100 foot by 100 foot piece of granite peel off and fall 2000 feet to the ground. It was the size of an apartment building’ he said.
Zabrok – seasoned rock climber with decades of experience – said the sound of the fall was like ‘a thousand freight trains derailing at once but louder’.
‘There were two people walking at the base and the appeared to get hit and completely buried.
‘We are past it and we are safe. Had we been underneath it we would have died for sure. I give thanks to God and my Savior Jesus Christ,’ he said.
The second rockslide sent rocks tumbling down onto the roads running out of the park
Writing later on a climbing forum, Zabrok said: ‘A guy in a green shirt ran over from the Zodiac area and probably went up into the rock fall to search for the people who were buried.
‘Ryan shouted continually from the portaledge to stay away because more rock was going to come down.
‘We think that the guy in the green shirt is the one who perished and was carried away by the rescue crew.
‘But this is only a guess based on what we saw. It is a true blue big wall miracle that orange helmet girl survived not one rock fall but too. She must have some sort of hedge of protection around her.’
The last climber to be killed by rock fall was Mason Robinson who was hit by a rock an fell 280ft to his death.
Challenging route: The rock rock fall occurred near the popular waterfall route. It follows the path of the Horse Tail Falls waterfall which plunges 3,000ft to the valley in spring
Aftermath: Peter Zabrok watched as a helicopter scrambled to rescue people beneath him who were ‘completely buried’ in the slide
Emergency crews worked at the site for hours after the rock fall on Wednesday
Spectacular: The Horsetail Falls climbing route follows the path of this waterfall when it is not flowing (file image)
Subsequent smaller rockfall also put rescuers in danger as they searched for survivors.
Zabrok added: ‘There have been three subsequent enormous rock falls and this rescuer is in tremendous peril.’
In a statement after the slide Yosemite National Park said: ‘A rockfall of undetermined size occurred on El Capitan at about 1:55 pm today. The release point appears to be near the ‘Waterfall Route,’ a popular climbing route on the East Buttress of El Capitan.
‘This is the area where Horsetail Fall flows in winter and spring conditions.
‘There is one confirmed fatality and one injured person. Park rangers are working to transport the injured person to receive medical care outside of the park.’
The fall trigger three smaller slides, he said, which left emergency workers in danger.
‘There have been three subsequent enormous rock falls and this rescuer is in tremendous peril,’ he said, immediately after the first one.
A second rockfall occurred at the famous California climbing spot on Thursday afternoon (pictured). It injured one person whose condition is not known
Peter Zabrok, who witnessed yesterday’s rockfall, said: ‘I literally felt the ground shake. This rockfall is far and away the biggest’
A massive cloud of thick dust spreads across Yosemite Valley after after the second rock fall in two day
This image shows the scale of yesterday’s rock fall, which was much larger than the one on Wednesday, which killed Andrew Foster
Massive scale: This image taken in 2010 shows climbers (arrows) dwarfed at the site of a smaller rock fall (circled) in Yosemite