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Hope fading fast for 4 missing on Rainier

Post by Jeff Mayor / The News Tribune on Jan. 23, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
January 27, 2012 10:51 am

UPDATE, Tuesday, 9:20 p.m. –

The chances of finding four missing people alive on Mount Rainier are “very minimal, minimum to none,” park spokesman Patti Wold said Tuesday.

Heavy snow and winds gusting faster than 90 mph prevented searching on Tuesday and the park decide Monday to start scaling down the search.

Missing are two campers and two climbers, both more than a week overdue. Mark Vucich, 37, of San Diego and Michelle Trojanowksi, 30 of Atlanta, planned to conclude their camping trip on the Muir snowfield on Jan. 15.

Sork Yang of Springfield, Ore., and Seol Hee Jin of South Korea, planned to finished their climb Jan. 16. Both climbers are 52.

Three snowshoers trapped in the same initial storm were all found alive on Jan. 16 after they spent two unplanned nights on the mountain.

A winter storm warning is in effect on Mount Rainier until 6 a.m. Wednesday.

The News Tribune and Reuters contributed to this report.




Two helicopters and a plane joined 40 searchers on the ground, but failed Monday to find any signs of four people stranded on Mount Rainier for more than a week.

The first real break in the weather Monday morning allowed a Chinook helicopter from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a Bell 206 helicopter from Northwest Helicopters and a Washington State Patrol plane with heat-sensing technology to search the upper mountain.

“There are no signs of either party,” said Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Patti Wold.

Missing are two campers – Mark Vucich, 37, of San Diego and Michelle Trojanowski, 30, of Atlanta – who were due off the mountain Jan 15. Two climbers – Sork Yang, 52, of Springfield, Ore., and Jin Seol Hee of Korea – were scheduled to return Jan. 16.

Searchers in the aircraft looked for both parties from the summit down to Paradise and the upper Stevens Canyon Road, Wold said. A one-mile temporary flight restriction was in place around the mountain as the aircraft conducted the search.

The searchers on the ground concentrated on the areas east and west of Sluiskin Falls, lower Paradise Glacier, north and east of Lake Louise and east of Mazama Ridge.

Mount Rainier and Denali climbing rangers, personnel from the National Park Service Pacific West, Intermountain and Alaska regions, guides from Rainier Mountaineering Inc. and International Mountain Guides, and Olympic, Tacoma, Everett and Seattle Mountain Rescue are helping with the search.

Blizzards with heavy snows and winds of more than 110 mph at Camp Muir have hindered efforts since the search began a week ago.

Plans to search more today could again be limited by the weather. The forecast for Paradise was calling for another 2 feet of new snow by tonight with increasing winds.

“They will continue to search, but with not as many people,” Wold said.

The park was able to amass the large group because of the good weather Monday.

“With that many people on the ground and three aircraft in the air, we covered a lot more ground than we have been able to,” she said.

While searchers are hopeful the four have been able to ride out the storm, there is growing concern about how long their supplies can hold out.

Wold said search coordinators have yet to decide when to ramp down the search.

“We continue searching for everybody on this mountain that is missing. But when do we pull people off, having smaller staff involved,” Wold said. “At some point we do it more as we are in that area. We don’t stop looking.”

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