EPA Director Dies in Climbing Accident

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Officials in Montana’s Environmental Protection Agency office said the agency’s director, John Wardell, has died in a mountain climbing accident near Libby.

Deputy Director Julie Dalsoglio told Lee Newspapers of Montana that Wardell and a friend had climbed Snowshoe Peak in the Cabinet Wilderness Area near Libby on Thursday and Wardell slipped as they were descending.

Dalsoglio says Wardell was unconscious after the fall. His friend returned to Libby for help. Search and rescue teams on the ground and in helicopters traveled to the site.

Dalsoglio says the office received confirmation at about 12:45 a.m. Friday that Wardell had died.

Wardell had worked for the EPA for 33 years, the last 25 as director of the Montana office. He oversaw most of the major federal environmental cleanups in state history, including mine and smelting cleanup in the Butte area, lead abatement in East Helena and the asbestos cleanup in Libby.

Wardell is survived by his wife, Sandy, and a son, Christopher, 28, of Denver.

Sen. Jon Tester issued a statement Friday, saying Wardell’s death was “tough news for all Montanans.”

“He was a public servant who truly left Montana a better place than he found it,” Tester said.

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