NBC News, whose Peacock Productions is producing Discovery’s Mount Everest live jump, said this morning “the future of the production will be assessed at the appropriate time” after the deadliest disaster ever recorded at the peak killed 13 Sherpa guides last night. The guides were carrying equipment and supplies to camps for climbers getting ready for peak trekking season — including those preparing to participate in Discovery Channel‘s Everest Jump Live, produced by the NBC News division.
Discovery, which had just announced Monday the live two-hour event would air May 11, said this morning its star Joby Ogwyn was at base came at the time of the avalanche, which struck a group of about 50 — mostly Nepalese sherpas — at more than 20,000 feet. Four people remain missing, according to Nepal’s Tourism Ministry. Discovery said it has has not had conversations as to how the disaster might impact its plans. “The avalanche last night on Mt. Everest is a terrible tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who are lost and with their families. The immediate priority for Joby and the team is to assist the search and rescue efforts in anyway possible.”
NBC News said its crews were on Mt. Everest preparing for Discovery’s special — in which Ogwyn is scheduled to climb Everest and leap from the summit wearing only a winged suit equipped with cameras — when the avalanche struck.
“The biggest tragedy of this is that it’s the very beginning of the [climbing] season and to lose this number of people at the very beginning of the season may be the end of the season here,” cameraman Ed Wardle told NBC’s Today show co-host Savannah Guthrie.
“I think a lot of people are wondering whether it’s appropriate to go on, given the scale of this tragedy,” Guthrie quickly jumped in when Wardle’s “biggest tragedy” talk took that cold turn. (Video after the jump)
NBC News issued a statement this morning saying, “We are grateful and relieved that the seven NBC News staffers on site are all accounted for and unharmed. Tragically, 13 Nepalese sherpas from a number of expedition companies who prepare the mountain each year for climbing season lost their lives, and the rescue mission continues. We are working closely with the team on the ground to assist however we can, and our thoughts and prayers are with the affected families.”
The avalanche is the deadliest disaster ever recorded at Everest. The previous record holder was the snowstorm that killed eight climbers on May 11, 1996 — an account of which was recorded in Jon Krakauer’s bestselling book Into Thin Air which, in turn, was made into a TV movie. Universal Pictures has set a September release date for its film Everest, also based on that tragedy. NBC News and Universal both are part of Comcast.
Watch Today show interview Peacock Productions crew members about the avalanche:
Former Good Morning America weatherman Sam Champion, now at Weather Channel, interviewed a former colleague, WABC anchor/avid mountaineer Diana Williams, live this morning on his morning show AMHQ. She was speaking from base camp in Katmandu: