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Tragedy strikes Washington community as two teens die in hiking accident
TIME: 04:15PM Thursday September 20,2012
A pair of teenage boys in Washington died in a tragic hiking accident over the weekend, as their efforts to climb a rock near a waterfall proved fatal.
Ben Skagen, 18, and Andrew Lusink, 16, fell trying to scale a big rock near Washington State's Otter Falls on Sunday night when they fell and were severely injured.
The boys, who had gone hiking with Lusink's brother Jeffrey, 18, and their friend Matthew McLinay, also 18, were hurt too badly to leave the campsite. Andrew Lusink had suffered a nasty leg break, while Skagen was reportedly strugging to breathe.
While McLinay stayed with the boys, Jeffrey ran five miles before he could find help.
"His brother fell. And he could tell he was hurt really bad," Elmo Warren, who was there when Jeffrey came out of the woods calling for help, told KIRO-TV. "They pulled them out of the water and got them out of the water. But of course they were soaking wet and cold. His brother was conscious, but his leg was broke clear off."
Warren’s grandson was able to get enough cell reception to call 911, but by the time emergency responders were able to find them in the area, it was too late.
"This is a very tragic situation," Sheriff's Sgt. Cindi West told KIRO-TV. "There is no cell service in the area so it is likely that the Forest Service employee had to drive down the mountain to call 911."
Christian Faith School, where Skagen graduated from in June and where Lusink had been a junior, posted news of their deaths on Facebook Monday, and held a morning prayer to honor the families.
"Deeply tragic event has happen at CFS. Andrew Lusink and Ben Skagen died in hiking accident last night," the school wrote on Facebook. "We invite students and parents at 8:00 am to an assembly in NGY for prayer and support for one another. Pastors will be available all day today. Please pray for the Lusink and Skagen families."
"We have lost two young heroes of the faith in a tragic hiking accident that happened over the weekend in the Snoqualmie area," the school also said in a statement, released to the families of the student body.  "Andrew Lusink a 16 year old Junior and Benjamin Skagen an 18 year old recent graduate of CFS headed for the Marines. The hearts and prayers of everybody here at Christian Faith School go out to all of you."
It will take some time and many prayers to go through this together, so today, we spent most of the day praying, sharing, crying, laughing and hurting and we have just begun to learn what an amazing impact these two young men have made on us all.  They will not be forgotten.
The students were remembered by their classmates, who left emotional messages on the school's Facebook page.
"Words of love and peace," Verree Brakfield Cabiles wrote. "They were like son's [SIC] to me. I will miss so many things about these two great men."
"My heart breaks for these families," wrote Christina Gately. "I am praying for peace and comfort."
The teen athletes - Skagen was reportedly a long-distance runner while Lusnik played on the school's soccer team - had been childhood friends, according to those who knew them.
“They were great friends,” school principal Tom Puddy told the News Tribune. “They’d grown up together, hiked together. Full of dreams, full of hopes, loved the outdoors, loved God.”
"They were smart but I guess lost their footing or something,” Lusink's aunt, Tracy Smith, told KIRO-TV. “They were wise boys. They weren't mischevious or anything, they just loved life and so we just couldn't believe it.”
The school announced donations for the Lusink and Skagen families are being accepted at local Wells Fargo branches.

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