Search Suspended: Skydiver Kurt Ruppert Still Missing, Presumed Dead

The King County Sheriff's Office suspended its search after hundreds of volunteers combed the rugged area for four days using sophisticated tracking equipment.

After four days of searching for searchers returned home Sunday night, Jan. 6, as the King County Sheriff's Office suspended the search of Mt. Si, saying they have searched all the areas that could be reached on foot.

On Monday, Sheriff's Sergeant Cindi West told reporters that it is unlikely that Ruppert has survived, given the cold conditions and lack of contact from him throughout the search period.

The King County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release that over the last four days 386 volunteers from 19 different agencies have searched an area approximately 9 square miles for the missing man. The Sheriff’s Office helicopter also spent 3 days searching from the air. Searchers also extensively searched a quarter mile square area that they said was a “potential” area based on cell phone and the helicopter flight path data.

The Sheriff’s Office said they have completed searching the areas that could be reached on foot.  There are cliff areas that could not be searched due to the extreme risk to searchers.  The Sheriff’s Office said they will search those areas by helicopter when weather permits.

Todd Stone, vice chairman of the group of experienced climbers who make up the volunteer Seattle Mountain Rescuers, told members that the team going out yesterday, which included climbers from Everett, Tacoma, and Olympia mountain rescue teams, planned Sunday to focus on a remote area on the back side of Mt. Si that was inaccessible by helicopter. Search areas have been informed by radar analysis and cell phone tracking technology/data, Stone said.

Glenn Wallace, a spokesman for the nonprofit King County Search and Rescue, which coordinates search efforts in situations such as this, told Patch that searchers had hoped Ruppert used his parachute to construct a shelter or snow cave.

However, Wallace said, searchers had no idea what condition Ruppert was in when he landed after jumping from a helicopter, and he wasn't planning on spending several cold nights on Mt. Si.

Wallace said it appears Ruppert had "a knife and relatively thin suit and long underwear." The most critical question, Wallace said, is what kind of condition Ruppert was in when he came down.

"His family says he's very strong. Some people come out after three, four, five days," Wallace said, adding, "Each day that goes by we are more concerned."

Wallace said that King County Search and Rescue teams search for as long as they are asked to continue by King County.

"No matter who or where we don’t like not finding pople," Wallace said, noting that of 117 missions last year, there were few people searchers didn't locate.

King County Search and Rescue is all volunteer and donor funded, Wallace said. Though the King County Sheriff's Office provides a truck and helicopter, most of the equipment searchers use is funded by private donations. You can donate to the association through its website.

For more coverage of the search see previous Patch stories.

Editor's note: this story has been edited from an earlier version for clarity.

Molly Salerno January 07, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Never give up hope!! Kurt is still in our thoughts and prayers. Molly Salerno/Dan Wasson.
Sletterman January 27, 2013 at 08:41 PM
I just had a thought about Kurt and checking for any information! Lighting a candle and praying for you and yours. Suzette
Jeanne Gustafson January 27, 2013 at 08:45 PM
Thanks for your comment, Sletterman. Additional helicopter searches have been conducted, but as far as we know at this time, Kurt has not been found yet.
Mary Ruppert April 03, 2013 at 01:19 AM
I am Kurt's mother and despite the many hours of searching and the generous services of the Search and Rescue teans and the thousands of posts from people all over the world and the good citizens of South Bend, we have accepted his death. Our most heartfelt thanks for everyone's efforts on behalf of our son Kurt Ruppert, Jr.
Jeanne Gustafson April 03, 2013 at 01:45 AM
Thanks for your heartfelt note, Mary. We all hoped and prayed right alongside you that Kurt would be found safely by our rescue volunteers, some of the most dedicated and experienced people I've ever met.


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