Extensive search turns up no sign of stranded parties on Rainier

LARGE SEARCH: 3 aircraft, 40 people look for 4 overdue campers, climbers on mountain

Staff writerJanuary 24, 2012 

An extensive search involving three aircraft and 40 people on the ground failed Monday to find any sign of four people stranded on Mount Rainier for more than a week.

A break in the weather Monday, the first since the search began a week ago, 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 South Korea – were to return Jan. 16.

Searchers in the aircraft looked from the summit down to Paradise and the upper Stevens Canyon Road, Wold said. People 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.

Helping with the search were 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.

Vucich’s stepmother, Fay Vucich of Auburn, told The Associated Press that the news was disheartening.

“We’ll just have to continue to wait and see,” she said.

Blizzards with heavy snows and winds topping 110 mph at Camp Muir had hindered earlier efforts. There will be no search today due to the weather. The forecast for Paradise was for 2 feet of new snow by tonight with increasing winds.

Monday’s good weather allowed the park was able to amass the large group.

“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 hope the four have been able to ride out the storm, there is growing concern about how long their supplies can hold out.

Wold said coordinators will be ramping down the search. They will continue to look in remote areas of the park when weather permits.

“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. But we don’t stop looking.”

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640

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