Thu. Jul 9th, 2020

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Body of One of Three Hikers Missing on Mount Rainier Is Found

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U.S. park rangers on Monday found the body of one of three hikers who disappeared separately in the past 10 days at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State, officials said.

The body of Matthew Bunker, 28, of Seattle, who vanished on Friday, was found on Monday along the base of Liberty Ridge, where he had been hiking with a group, the National Park Service said on Monday night. He had been skiing behind a partner at about 10,400 above sea level when, on their way back down, “unknown events” caused Mr. Bunker to fall in “steep and treacherous terrain,” said Patti Wold, a spokeswoman for the Park Service.

The terrain is prone to rockfalls and avalanches, including one that killed six climbers in 2014.

The search for Mr. Bunker and the other hikers has been hampered by inclement weather. But on Monday, clear skies allowed for another helicopter search.

“We extend our deepest condolences to Matthew’s loved ones and friends,” Tracy Swartout, deputy superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park, said in a statement. “It brings us a great degree of sorrow to be unable to bring him home to his family.” Mr. Bunker graduated from West Point in 2013 and served five years in the military.

The Park Service said the search for the two other hikers — Vincent Dije, 25, who disappeared on June 19, and Talal Sabbagh, 17, who disappeared on June 22 — was continuing.

Missing hikers are not uncommon on Mount Rainier this time of year, officials said, because many climbers are surprised by the changing conditions as they ascend the mountain.

“It feels like summer, but at high elevation we have lots of snow,” said Terry Wildy, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service at Mount Rainier. “For folks that are hiking, it may not be obvious where trails are or what is underneath the snow.”

Mount Rainier, an active volcano that at its peak is more than 14,000 feet above sea level, was among the national parks that were temporarily off-limits during the coronavirus pandemic. Hiking was forbidden from March 24 to June 5. The visitors’ center and other buildings there remain closed.

Mr. Dije, a student from Indonesia who is living in Seattle, and Mr. Sabbagh, who is from Seattle, were both last seen in the area of the park known as Paradise. It is on the southern part of the mountain and where most visitors go to drive up the trail.

Mr. Dije was hiking the Van Trump Trail, at least 5,000 feet above sea level, toward Mildred Point at Longmire, officials said. His car was found at the park.

The National Park Service said it was working closely with the Indonesian Consulate in San Francisco and with Mr. Dije’s relatives.

Mr. Sabbagh’s car was found parked at a lot in Paradise, officials said.

Kathryn Van Waes, the executive director of the American Hiking Society, said in an interview on Monday that hiking “is generally safe during this pandemic.”

“It is a really good idea to get outside, but we recommend people stay fairly close to home,” she said.

Ms. Van Waes suggested that hikers try not to go on difficult hikes at this time.

“The medical system is already under a lot of stress,” she said. “Stick to front country and fairly easy hikes where you are less likely to get lost.”

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