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Red Rock lowering accident with injuries - 2/14/11
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Vegasclimber10


Feb 15, 2011, 8:34 PM
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Red Rock lowering accident with injuries - 2/14/11
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On 2/14/11, a male climber fell while rappelling from a rope solo climb in Red Rock Canyon, suffering injuries that resulted in a helicopter extraction by Las Vegas Metro SAR.

Narrative:

The climber had been rope soloing the 5.9 bolted first pitch variation to Tunnel Vision when the accident occurred. He had decided to retreat at the fourth bolt due to the pitch being harder then anticipated.

The self arrest device in use was an Edelrid Eddy, and the climber was new to using the device, having only been out with it twice before. When rappelling, he experienced difficulty with the device repeatedly "locking" and was trying to find a position on the lowering handle that would cause the rope to lower with less drag.
He was using a fairly new 60mx10.2 rope.

He had placed the handle in the full open locked position, and was trying to find a position in the handle range that he had used before to get a smooth descent. At some point, he took his hand off the brake side of the rope and began to use both hands to try and adjust the handle. There was no backup in place.

The device unlocked abruptly in mid range (between the locked open and closed handle positions), and the climber went into free fall. He managed to grab the brake side of the rope, causing rope burns to his hand. The device then locked, but during dynamic stretch of the rope he impacted the ground feet first. The fall distance was approximately 25 feet.

When the climber impacted the ground, he received injuries to both ankles. His left ankle was immediately unusable, and the right ankle was also damaged to the extent that he could not place any weight on it a short time later. He was extremely fortunate to be in a rare position within Red Rock that had cell coverage, and had chose to bring his phone with him.

The climber waited about an hour before initiating rescue with a cell phone call to the BLM Rangers. The responding Ranger reached him about an hour later, and after assessing the situation, elected for a helicopter extraction. SAR arrived on scene about an hour after the initial contact, and extracted the climber to an ambulance. After assessment by EMT personnel, the climber elected to refuse further treatment and be picked up at the location by a friend. He is currently unable to walk due to the ankle injuries. The full extent of the injuries is not currently known.

Analysis:

As with most accidents, this was a collection of incidents that led to the accident occurring.

The primary cause of the accident was that the climber failed to maintain control of the rope and utilize a backup. A backup should always be used when rappelling, especially when soloing.
In addition, the climbers hand should not have been off of the brake side of the rope.

Additional factors that led to the accident include:

1. Misjudgment of the route. The route was close to the climber's maximum lead capability under normal circumstances.

2. Exhaustion. The climber had considered retreating earlier in the climb, and continued on and was suffering both from physical stress and mental stress from the grade of the route and the fact that he was rope soloing.

3. Lack of familiarity with the device. This was the climbers third time out with this device, which may have contributed to the accident.

In addition, the climber had not notified anyone of his intentions to climb or the area he was climbing in. He almost chose to leave his cell phone in the car, and fortunately decided to bring it with him. You should always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return, before going out on any type of solo activity in a wilderness area.

Fortunately, in this accident the climber was lucky enough to only receive minor injuries. It could have been far worse.

On a personal note, as this is one of my climbing partners and I had to go out this morning and get his gear, I am REALLY damned happy he's OK for the most part. His landing area was pretty narrow, and he could have easily ended up falling further.

(Edited for grammar and spelling)

(Edit 2 on 2/17 to change the thread title with minor narrative change)


(This post was edited by Vegasclimber10 on Feb 17, 2011, 9:32 PM)


1904climber


Feb 15, 2011, 9:03 PM
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Re: [Vegasclimber10] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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wow, sounds like he got really lucky.
hope he heals quickly


notapplicable


Feb 15, 2011, 9:24 PM
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Re: [Vegasclimber10] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Damn. Glad your partner is mostly ok, things could have gone much worse without the cellphone.

Just have two comments about your analysis.

In reply to:
The primary cause of the accident was that the climber failed to maintain control of the rope and utilize a backup. A backup should always be used when rappelling, especially when soloing.

For all intents and purposes, "Never" and "Always" do not exist in climbing. At least not with respect to that type of thing. You'll do best to forget those notions now.

In reply to:
2. Exhaustion. The climber had considered retreating earlier in the climb, and continued on and was suffering both from physical stress and mental stress from the grade of the route and the fact that he was rope soloing.

Mental and physical exhaustion seems a bit hyperbolic considering his highpoint was the 4th bolt. Pumped and tweekin perhaps, but "exhausted"?


milesenoell


Feb 15, 2011, 9:37 PM
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Re: [notapplicable] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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notapplicable wrote:
Damn. Glad your partner is mostly ok, things could have gone much worse without the cellphone.

Just have two comments about your analysis.

In reply to:
The primary cause of the accident was that the climber failed to maintain control of the rope and utilize a backup. A backup should always be used when rappelling, especially when soloing.

For all intents and purposes, "Never" and "Always" do not exist in climbing. At least not with respect to that type of thing. You'll do best to forget those notions now.

In reply to:
2. Exhaustion. The climber had considered retreating earlier in the climb, and continued on and was suffering both from physical stress and mental stress from the grade of the route and the fact that he was rope soloing.

Mental and physical exhaustion seems a bit hyperbolic considering his highpoint was the 4th bolt. Pumped and tweekin perhaps, but "exhausted"?

+1


Vegasclimber10


Feb 15, 2011, 10:23 PM
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Re: [milesenoell] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Thanks for your input, I agree with the first point in that there are different situations which may not require a backup.

Please keep in mind that this is my first write up of this nature, and I will naturally have to work on the language. Additional comments as to what I do or do not need to forget do not help this however. I personally always use a backup.

As to exhaustion, I think it is relative to the person and situation. He was very tired, and freaked out, and was not making clear decisions due to those factors. I chose the word exhaustion to best describe his mind set and physical capability at the time of the accident, as he described it to me.


majid_sabet


Feb 15, 2011, 10:35 PM
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Re: [Vegasclimber10] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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First time I rap with gri gri, i hated to death and still, i refuse to use it for rapping because of the problem i noticed with locking/unlocking . I personally only use 8 for rapping because its versatile and you could increase or decrease friction. camp just camp up with a new device that is half ATC and half rack combo. pretty nice lightweight device for rapping so i may get one of those.

leaving a knot at the end of the rope is always a good insurance not to deck.


vegastradguy


Feb 15, 2011, 10:38 PM
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Re: [Vegasclimber10] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Vegasclimber10 wrote:
As to exhaustion, I think it is relative to the person and situation. He was very tired, and freaked out, and was not making clear decisions due to those factors. I chose the word exhaustion to best describe his mind set and physical capability at the time of the accident, as he described it to me.

all due respect, if he was that tired at the fourth bolt on the first pitch, and that freaked out....then he vastly overestimated his ability to even be on that route, let alone be rope-soloing it.

i think perhaps scared and tweaked may be more accurate, despite what he may say about the accident- hopefully he will come to realize this, lest he find himself in over his head again.


Vegasclimber10


Feb 15, 2011, 10:43 PM
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Re: [vegastradguy] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Thanks for your input John. I think the route may be a bit under rated, but I agree he may have been over his head in this case.

For what it's worth, he can lead at that level in normal climbing, and he's usually a pretty solid decision maker.

It goes to show that any of us can get in over our heads. As I noted, he was already thinking about bailing before the accident and I think he probably should have heeded his instinct.


Vegasclimber10


Feb 15, 2011, 10:49 PM
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Re: [majid_sabet] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Unfortunately tying a knot in the end of the rope wouldn't have prevented this particular accident, as the rope was feeding from a backpack and he wasn't off the end of the rope.

I agree with the gri gri rappelling personally and the device he used is similar to it in some ways. I would only use an 8 or Rescue 8 in SAR application in most cases though, they just kink the ropes up too much.

When I have rope soloed, I have always been well under my max lead range and changed over to an ATC for rapping.


vegastradguy


Feb 15, 2011, 11:04 PM
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Re: [Vegasclimber10] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Vegasclimber10 wrote:
Unfortunately tying a knot in the end of the rope wouldn't have prevented this particular accident, as the rope was feeding from a backpack and he wasn't off the end of the rope.

no, but tying the rope off below the device and clipping it to his belay loop would have been an effective backup once he decided to remove his hand from the brake side of the rope. this is standard practice when rope soloing no matter what device you're using.


Vegasclimber10


Feb 15, 2011, 11:08 PM
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Re: [vegastradguy] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Correct, I was just responding to Majiid's comment :) there was a couple of backup options available for sure.


blondgecko
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Feb 16, 2011, 1:09 AM
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Re: [Vegasclimber10] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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In reply to:
He had placed the handle in the full open locked position, and was trying to find a position in the handle range that he had used before to get a smooth descent. At some point, he took his hand off the brake side of the rope and began to use both hands to try and adjust the handle. There was no backup in place.

Damn. I hope that, after you were finished telling him how you're glad he's (relatively) ok, you then proceeded to slap him silly.

Glad it didn't turn out worse.


Vegasclimber10


Feb 16, 2011, 1:20 AM
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Re: [blondgecko] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Let's just say we had a rather intense discussion about why you don't do certain things. Slapping him would have just made him hurt more and his ankles look like melons at the moment.

He's really not inexperienced and by no means ignorant. This just shows that it's possible in high stress situations to forget basic rules.
And this sport is very unforgiving to such lapses.

I'm just glad it was only his ankles. I attended way too many funerals in aviation and I'm not wanting to start again in climbing.


airscape


Feb 16, 2011, 5:01 AM
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Re: [Vegasclimber10] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Not telling anyone where you are going is a serious fault when it comes to going outdoors by yourself.

I'm glad he's ok.


socalclimber


Feb 16, 2011, 5:17 AM
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Re: [Vegasclimber10] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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In many respects, if you are not competent at rope soloing, you probably shouldn't be on routes at your a limit or above. It's kinda like learning to lead all over again. Dealing with the systems and feeding slack when need be are enough to cause plenty of problems. He should have chosen a route below his abilities while he sorts out the technical issues.

I'm not sure I would use terms like exhausted either. Simply put:

"Lack of experience and gross underestimation of skills and abilities" would be more appropriate.

There was no reason he could not have tied a backup knot below the device regardless of how the rope was stacked. Just pull out enough slack so there is a loop below.

Honestly, there is enough going on with rope soloing systems that this should be practiced on easy terrain until all the issues are sorted out. Learning how to use your device during a retreat is not the best practice. As you and I am sure the climber now understand.

I'm guessing his Tap Dancing career is on hold for a spell...


notapplicable


Feb 16, 2011, 6:26 AM
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Re: [Vegasclimber10] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Vegasclimber10 wrote:
Thanks for your input, I agree with the first point in that there are different situations which may not require a backup.

Please keep in mind that this is my first write up of this nature, and I will naturally have to work on the language. Additional comments as to what I do or do not need to forget do not help this however. I personally always use a backup.

As to exhaustion, I think it is relative to the person and situation. He was very tired, and freaked out, and was not making clear decisions due to those factors. I chose the word exhaustion to best describe his mind set and physical capability at the time of the accident, as he described it to me.

Sorry if you got the wrong impression from my post. I think you did a good job writing it up and I damn sure appreciate you posting it. It sucks when these things happen but I'd rather see them shared with the community.

And by all means, if you want to always use a backup, I encourage it. The only issue I had was that your statement made it sound like some sort of universal imperative.


notapplicable


Feb 16, 2011, 6:28 AM
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Re: [Vegasclimber10] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Vegasclimber10 wrote:
It goes to show that any of us can get in over our heads.

Thats for damn sure. I don't know anyone who hasn't done so more than once.


socalclimber


Feb 16, 2011, 7:06 AM
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Re: [notapplicable] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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notapplicable wrote:
Vegasclimber10 wrote:
It goes to show that any of us can get in over our heads.

Thats for damn sure. I don't know anyone who hasn't done so more than once.

I got myself into a really good situation similar to this one minus the fall while solo aid climbing. I managed to get things so cluster fucked and tangled I almost couldn't get out of the mess I had created. Rather frightening considering I was hanging off of a shitty copperhead and a lot of bunk gear below me.

It was very scary, especially since none of my gear would have caught a fall if the piece I was on pulled.


healyje


Feb 17, 2011, 6:42 PM
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Re: [Vegasclimber10] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Somehow missed this thread. Sounds like a rappelling accident, not a roped solo one. As great as the Eddy is for roped soloing, it is a bit onerous for rappelling. The issue you friend was having was that if you are holding the handle too far towards it's end you can have a hard time keeping the locking cam in the mid-range position it needs to be in to run rope; you instead are constantly over-pulling the handle by small amounts, but amounts that relock the cam on the fully-pulled side of the handle/cam's range.

To operate it smoothly on rappel I've found I need to brace my pinky on the device body then grasp and operate the handle with the rest of my hand choked way down on the handle. This gives you much better control over where the handle is over it's range, allows you to keep it in the desired 'sweet spot', and yields a better 'feel' for what's going on.

As far as taking the rope off the brake hand without the rope somehow secured, well, that speaks for itself as something he'll never do again. What he should have done is a leg wrap of 3-4 turns and over the top of his foot prior to messing with the Eddy with both hands to try to reset the handle back to the top of its range.

On a slick new rope the with an Eddy or a grigri you you'll cover 25ft in the blink of an eye before you even now what's happening to you. Bummer, that's a real tough lesson to have to learn.

I personally don't take a 'backup knot' lesson or message away from the incident and won't be changing my use of the Eddy in rope soloing to include them. If you mean a leg wrap to work the problem or a leg klemhiest as a rap backup. But again, this wasn't a rope solo accident.


(This post was edited by healyje on Feb 17, 2011, 6:45 PM)


Vegasclimber10


Feb 17, 2011, 9:30 PM
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Re: [healyje] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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For those who have mentioned it, I will be editing the name of the thread to better suit the situation.

In addition, we hope to investigate this further next week, and see if we can recreate the accident in a controlled setting.

The choice to backup the device you are using to rap with or not is ultimately up to you. I did not post this thread to mandate change in the usage of the Eddy device. I posted this to inform others so that this particular situation does not occur again.


socalclimber


Feb 18, 2011, 4:36 AM
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Re: [Vegasclimber10] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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I guess if you want to nit pick at the title that's fine, but the reality is there was more going here than just an error using the device he chose for rapping the route.


healyje


Feb 18, 2011, 6:32 AM
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Re: [Vegasclimber10] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Vegasclimber10 wrote:
The choice to backup the device you are using to rap with or not is ultimately up to you. I did not post this thread to mandate change in the usage of the Eddy device. I posted this to inform others so that this particular situation does not occur again.

I wasn't speaking of a rap backup other than peripherally as one means among many ways this accident could have been prevented. I was principally speaking about the fact there is nothing about this accident that would make me consider using backup knots while rope-soloing with the Eddy.

As a long-time Eddy user I don't think the incident requires any research at all and attempting to recreate it is as simple as it is pointless. Attempt to wrestle that handle out of the back-locked position into the mid-range without the brake-hand side of the rope being secured somehow and this will be the result every time.

It happens because when you don't have adequate control over the Eddy's handle during a rap it will repeatedly 'pop' lock on you towards the back of the handle's range and into the back-locked position. That 'popping' causes you to do significant bouncing on the rap line - typically repeatedly in short intervals - as you try, but fail, to keep the handle in the 'sweet spot'. The rap experience when lacking adequate control of the handle is an irritating rap-snag-bounce-rap-snag-bounce with the 'rap' being a very short distance.

If the next back-lockup happens when you get to the bottom of a bounce - while being fast accelerated downward - the result is a hard jam of the Eddy with the handle in the back-locked position. This is can be hard to clear with one hand due to the jamming force imparted by the bounce.

When you then use two hands to clear it you're aiming to do a full reset of the handle to the front-locked position. BUT, the reality is, when you finally do manage to [forcefully] pop the handle out of the back-lock position the device does just that - it pops hard - out of the back-lock and into the running rope mid-range.

When it does that it tends to want to lag in that mid-range momentarily due to the nature of the mechanical state changes involved with going backlocked > running > frontlocked. Those mechanical state changes require [some] energy to move from one state to the next when the Eddy is under load (i.e. the rope is pressuring the locking cam), so you have to deliberately and swiftly apply a bit more pressure and really keep the handle moving past the free running mid-range and into the front-locked state in order to avoid the accident that happened here.

But the sad fact is you simply can't move the handle through those three states swiftly enough to avoid plummeting when you don't have the rope below the device secured in some manner. You might as well be pulling the pin on a parachute or hand grenade if you make the very unwise choice of trying to reset the handle without first securing the brake-hand side of the rope in some manner - particularly close to the ground or a ledge.

In short, it is an inherent 'feature' of the Eddy's tri-state locking mechanism's design and not a problem with the device per se. So analysis-wise:

1) Inadequate grip control on the handle > rapid and repeated hard bouncing during rappel

2) Hitting the bottom of a hard bounce and relocking > handle jammed hard in the back-locked position

3) Handle too hard to reset to the front with one hand > may necessitate using two hands to reset the handle to the front-locked position

4) Failure to secure the brake-hand side of the rope before using two hands to reset handle > open yourself up to an extended ride until either you complete the handle reset or the cam re-catches on the rope

5) Time before either of those happen > 20-50ft ride would be my guess if free-hanging or close to it.

----------------------------------------

A) Don't rope solo with the Eddy until you can control it smoothly on rappel and have a thorough understanding of how the locking mechanism works and how the handle interacts with it.

B) When rapping learn to do a stable 'chocked-up' grip on the handle with your pinky/ring fingers also braced across the top of the Eddy's shell.

C) Don't try to clear a hard bounce backlock jam with both hands without first doing a leg wrap with the brake-hand side of the rope.

D) Don't ever take your brake hand off of the rope while your other hand is touching the handle of any autoblocking device unless you have secured that side of the rope first.


(This post was edited by healyje on Feb 18, 2011, 3:30 PM)


sethg


Feb 18, 2011, 7:37 AM
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Re: [healyje] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Thank you for that explanation. Very helpful.


Vegasclimber10


Feb 18, 2011, 3:49 PM
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Re: [healyje] Red Rock rope solo accident with injuries - 2/14/11 [In reply to]
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Thanks for your in depth and informative post!

The opinion of whether it needs to be recreated or not is somewhat moot, however. Some people - including myself - like to see pictures and/or video to help create a clearer idea about how the device functions or does not function.

In addition, I have received several messages about this device, and people having issues with it slipping in many situations when it shouldn't.

Being as I do not have a bias for or against the device personally, I will still take the time to work with the device and create my own opinions based on that usage.

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