Hualien investigators yesterday were trying to determine whether a decision made by three men to abandon a companion during a difficult hike constituted a crime because the man left behind did not survive.
Hualien fire authorities said 69-year-old Chen Shiou-kuan (陳秀寬) died during a hike along the Mount Bilu (畢祿)-Mount Yangtou (羊頭) trail in Hualien County with three other men.
Lin Ya-ching (林雅青), the 65-year-old leader of the four-man team, told the authorities they had set off on the trail early on Sunday and planned to complete the hike in 15 hours.
However, two hours after they began, the temperature went down to about 0°C, and it started to rain and snow, Lin said.
The hikers’ clothing became soaked despite them wearing waterproof overcoats.
Lin said that as they were walking on a ridge between Mount Bilu and Mount Yangtou, Chen turned pale and started to shake due to the extremely cold weather. He fell down and could not walk anymore.
Lin said that because they were in an area with cliffs, they could not help Chen move. The men boiled and drank hot water to try and keep themselves warm.
However, by 3pm, Chen was suffering from hypothermia and had lost consciousness.
Lin said he called 119 and the men decided to leave Chen under a rock and keep moving to save themselves.
Lin said that a rescue team met them as they were leaving the mountain and arranged for them to rest at a house nearby.
Fire authorities said a rescue team comprised of more than 20 people reached Chen on Monday night, but he was already dead.
Hualien investigators said that abandoning an individual whose life is in danger could be considered an offense punishable by law, but that if the lives of the men had been endangered, they had not broken the law.
Investigators said they would interview the three to clarify the matter.