Kittitas County Sheriff: Seattle Fire Chief died from a fall - body escorted back to Seattle

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Deputy Fire Chief Jay Schreckengost
Seattle Fire
The body of Deputy Fire Chief Jay Schreckengost was transported home to Seattle Friday, November 19, 2021 by members of the Seattle Fire Department in Fire Department vehicles. 

A forensic examination of the Chief ordered by the Kittitas County Coroner revealed numerous injuries including a broken wrist and broken spine. The autopsy concluded the cause of the Chief’s death was multiple blunt force trauma. Further investigation in the field led investigators to believe Chief Schreckengost fell down steep hillside or cliff faces more than once before coming to rest where he was found last Sunday.

It’s known that there was snow on the ground when Chief Schreckengost went scouting for Elk on the morning of Tuesday, November 2, 2021 —creating slick conditions in that already rugged and dangerous terrain. 

The location where he was found was near the bottom of a sharp, broken slope about 700 feet in elevation, north-northeast from the end of spur road 553 off Forest Service Rd 1703 in the Wenatchee-Okanogan National Forest near Cliffdell. 

It’s believed the Chief slipped or fell down a part of that slope into terrain where he could neither climb back up nor safely descend. Another fall brought him near the bottom of the slope and caused a fatal spinal fracture.

The area where the Chief came to rest was covered in thick brush and could not be safely navigated by searchers without technical climbing equipment and expertise. 

The team that located him on the afternoon of Sunday, November 14 included members of Mountain Rescue Teams from Seattle, Tacoma, Everett and the Olympic and Central Mountain Rescue Teams. These teams of skilled and trained volunteers searched miles of cliff bands in the mountainous area near the Chief’s last known location before finally locating him.

The Mountain Rescue Teams and all the Search and Rescue volunteers who participated were part of a monumental effort including and spurred by the passion of Chief Schreckengost’s fellow Seattle Firefighters. 

The coordination and commitment of everyone who assisted in the search was a fitting tribute to the Chief, and we hope that his final voyage home provides some comfort to all who loved him.

--Kittitas County Sheriff's Office


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