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Hikers missing in two April avalanches

At least three people were missing and two people were injured in two separate avalanches that hit the Snoqualmie Pass area Saturday, April 14.

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Local News
05/08/13

Body of missing hiker found

AvalancheSNOQUALMIE PASS — The body of missing avalanche victim Mitch Hungate was located Wednesday morning by a King County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team near Granite Mountain.

Hungate,60, was presumed dead after he went missing in an avalanche in early April near Snoqualmie Pass.

Snoqualmie Pass AvalanchesSEATTLE — A snowshoer who was killed in an avalanche near Snoqualmie Pass Saturday was identified Monday as Dr. Joy Yu, 55, a Bellevue naturopathic physician.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office listed her cause of death as mechanical asphyxia due to being trapped under snow.

According to the sheriff’s office, the avalanche happened near Exit 52 on Interstate 90. A group of snowshoers was caught in the tumbling snow, but all were able to free themselves except for one woman.

The freed hikers found the woman 45 minutes after the avalanche and dug her out of about five feet of snow, officials said. The woman was not moving but conscious when the hikers found her, but she died after a two-hour carry down to the nearest aid group.

Avalanche

SNOQUALMIE PASS — Due to poor weather conditions and concerns of another avalanche, the King County Sheriff’s Office said the search will not resume Monday for 60-year-old Mitch Hungate, but crews will try to resume the search Tuesday.

Search and rescue crews were unable to locate Hungate Saturday on Granite Mountain after he was presumably buried in one of two large avalanches near Snoqualmie Pass. They called off the search Sunday, and then again Monday.

Family and friends who gathered on the mountain said they aren’t giving up hope, but are preparing for the worst.

Marilynn Hungate, Mitch’s wife, said she feels his presence.

“I feel his heartbeat,” Marilynn Hungate said. “He’s a mountain climber. He’s climbed major peaks all over the world.”

A well-trained athlete and outdoorsman, Hungate was hiking and mentoring two younger men on Granite Mountain when a sudden, major avalanche swept them away. According to King County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Kathleen Larson, the avalanche sprang up without any warning.

“According to one of the climbers, it came on them with almost no warning whatsoever,” Larson said. “The survivor said he was carried about 1,000 feet.”

According to GPS data, the avalanche swept the climbers down the mountain at 53 mph. The two young men were able to walk away, but could not find Hungate.

Dozens of search and rescue volunteers combed the area Sunday but suspended the search at nightfall. Conditions were too dangerous to continue, officials said, but Marilynn Hungate spent the night at the base of Granite Mountain.

“We really hoped that somehow he would break free and find his way off the mountain and we didn’t want him to come down to an empty parking lot,” she said.

Mitch’s sister, Cheryl, is also holding out hope of her brother’s return.

“It would be something he would do. He’s the strongest man I think I’ve ever known,” she said.

DogSNOQUALMIE PASS — An 8-year-old dog belonging to the victim of an avalanche Saturday near Snoqualmie Pass was found safe and sound Sunday, King County search and rescue workers reported.

The 8-year-old Border Collie/ Sheltie Mix named Blue was last seen going down the mountain with a group of hikers when rescuers arrived at the scene of an avalanche that killed the dog’s owner. Blue was reportedly hiking with her owner when she was buried in an avalanche and later died from the trauma.

According to the sheriff’s office, the avalanche happened near Exit 52 on Interstate 90. A group of snowshoers was caught in the tumbling snow, but all were able to free themselves except for one woman. The freed hikers found the woman 45 minutes after the avalanche and dug her out of about 5-feet of snow, officials said. The woman was not moving but conscious when the hikers found her, but she died after a two hour hike down to the nearest aid group.

The woman’s identity has not yet been released.

 

 

Snoqualmie Pass AvalanchesSNOQUALMIE PASS — One woman died and the search for a man was indefinitely suspended less than 24 hours after two large avalanches struck two groups of hikers Saturday afternoon near Snoqualmie Pass.

In the first avalanche, three men were hiking around 12:40 p.m. toward the summit of Granite Mountain when they were swept away by an avalanche. Two of the three buried hikers were able to dig themselves out of the snow and call for help. King County Sheriff’s Officer Search and Rescue responded to the scene to help look for the missing 60-year-old experienced hiker, but the search was called off just before dark.

On Sunday, the search for the missing hiker was indefinitely suspended due to poor weather conditions, the sheriff’s office said. The missing man has been identified as 61-yer-old Renton dentist Mitch Hungate.

According to the sheriff’s office, a second avalanche happened shortly after the first near Exit 52 on Interstate 90. A group of snowshoers was caught in the tumbling snow, but all were able to free themselves except for one woman. The freed hikers found the woman 45 minutes after the avalanche and dug her out of about 5-feet of snow, officials said. The woman was not moving but conscious when the hikers found her.

Mitch

Mitch Hungate

Search and Rescue teams hiked more than two hours to reach the group and the victim was loaded on the sled and transported down the mountain. She was confirmed dead at the base’s medic center, officials said.

More than 100 search and rescue teams were on-call during Saturday’s operation.

SNOQUALMIE PASS — Search and rescue crews rushed to multiple scenes off Snoqualmie Pass where avalanches buried a number of hikers Saturday afternoon.

The two avalanches were on Granite Mountain and another near Alpental.

Chris Sohn was part of a team of 12 slammed by one avalanche. He says he had little warning about the rush of snow heading towards him.

“Someone calling snow fall down,” Sohn said. “And then as soon as you hear it, I sloped down like 10 or 15 feet.

Another woman hiking by herself was rescued. She was suffering from hypothermia and deputies say her rescue was a long and tedious process to avoid other avalanches.

Deputy Eric Gagnon said, “Everybody’s on snow shoes. As you can see the weather conditions are poor at best. The avalanche danger is high to extreme.”

Just three miles away, at Granite Mountain, crews searched the scene of another avalanche where a group of three very experienced hikers were buried.

Sergeant Kathleen Larson said, “According to one of the climbers, I mean it came on them with almost no warning whatsoever. He said he was carried about a 1,000 feet.”

The avalanche was 30 feet wide and traveling over 50 miles an hour. Two hikers received minor injuries but the third hiker, a 60 year old man, went missing. About 50 search and rescue crew members began the task of finding the missing man.

“It’s pretty dicey right now,” Segeant Larson said.  “Right now, not only are we battling the weather conditions but obviously we want to get up there and back before it gets dark.”

Crews say hiking in conditions like these is risky.

Segeant Larson said, “Once you get into spring, and you have that warm weather and then you have a cold dump, with snow coming down. That’s when you get those real dangerous conditions up here.”

AVALANCHE

SNOQUALMIE PASS –  Three people are missing and two people have injuries from two separate avalanches on Snoqualmie Pass Saturday afternoon.  One avalanche hit near exit 47 on Interstate 90.  The other happened near the Alpental ski area on the west side of the summit.   The slides happened in the back country ski area.  Travel on Interstate 90 is not affected.

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