Tacoma man says park ranger saved his life, many others

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @Drewmikk

KING5.com

Posted on January 3, 2012 at 6:40 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 3 at 7:01 PM

TACOMA, Wash. -- A Tacoma man believes he may have been the last person to see a Mount Rainier National Park ranger alive before she was gunned down Sunday.

Jeremy Best said Margaret Anderson likely saved many lives that day, including his own.

The Paradise parking lot was icy Sunday morning on Mount Rainier, so Best said Anderson helped him and friends find a safe place to park.

After talking about the weather with the ranger, Best said she got a radio call and headed down the mountain in her vehicle.

"Maybe she didn't know what she was stopping," said Best, "but she responded to a situation in a timely fashion and I believe it saved a lot of lives."

Minutes later, Best said he heard what he thought were avalanche control blasts. Instead, they turned out to be gunshots.

The next thing he knew, Best said police ran into the lodge, announced a ranger had been killed and the shooter was on the run. Best took photos of the police presence inside the lodge as they ordered everyone to stay put.

Dozens of visitors, including "lots of children", according to Best, were in the Paradise parking lot at the time of the gunfire.

Investigators said Anderson was shot and killed after stopping Benjamin Barnes on the road up to Paradise. Barnes was found dead the next day, partially submerged in an iced-over creek.

Pierce County medical examiners completed autopsies on both the suspect and victim Tuesday. They concluded that Barnes drowned, but hypothermia was a contributing factor.

There will be a public candlelight vigil for Anderson on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. at the Eatonville Early Learning Center, located at 560 Center Street East. There is no word yet on an official memorial service.

Mount Rainier National Park will reopen Saturday.

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