Mount Rainier National Park to reopen Saturday

AP News
Posted: Jan 04, 2012 3:36 PM
Mount Rainier National Park to reopen Saturday

Mount Rainier National Park will reopen to the public on Saturday, nearly a week after a park ranger was shot to death trying to stop a vehicle inside the park.

A memorial service was being planned for Margaret Anderson, a 34-year-old mother of two who was married to another park ranger.

Anderson had set up a roadblock to stop a vehicle that blew through a checkpoint that Mount Rainier rangers use to determine whether vehicles are equipped with chains for winter driving. The driver of that vehicle shot Anderson in her car and fled on foot.

Searchers found the body of the suspect, Benjamin Colton Barnes, in a snowy creek Monday with a handgun and rifle nearby. An autopsy Tuesday showed he had hypothermia and drowned.

Police say Barnes, a 24-year-old Iraq war veteran, had been involved in an earlier shooting at a party early New Year's Day in Skyway, south of Seattle.

Both shootings were under investigation Wednesday.

The family of Barnes extended condolences and asked for privacy in a statement published Wednesday by The Seattle Times.

"Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and your families as well during this difficult time," the statement said. "We are as shocked as anyone concerning the events of the last few days and while we in no way condone or excuse Ben's behavior, he was a beloved member of our family and we are saddened by his loss."

Mount Rainier National Park receives 1.5 million visitors each year. In a statement, the park said that all services would be available Saturday except for snow play.

An incident management team brought in by the National Park Service is helping to plan a memorial service for Anderson, who had worked at Mount Rainier for three years. She is survived by her husband and two young daughters.