Update: With weather improving, the search was resumed early Sunday, parks officials said.
Mount Rainier National Park rangers called off their ground search for University of Washington assistant professor Dr. Sam Dubal, who went missing while hiking two weeks ago, on Friday evening.
Park rangers began searching for 33-year-old Dubal on Oct. 12, two days after he went for an overnight hike on the Mother Mountain Loop out of the Mowich Lake trailhead. He was supposed to return Oct. 10, the park said.
“Daily robust searches have included ground-based search teams, canine teams, drones, helicopters, and the use of Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) cameras,” the park said in a Friday evening statement. “With the arrival of significant winter weather and following exhaustive search efforts, the National Park Service (NPS) is suspending ground searches but will continue to manage the search as new leads arise.”
Dubal is about 5 feet 9 inches tall and 155 pounds, has black hair and a short black beard, and might be wearing a blue jacket, according to a description shared by the park. He joined UW’s Department of Anthropology as an assistant professor in June.
“Searchers have spent long hours scouring the area and not locating Dr. Dubal is heavy on our hearts,” Chip Jenkins, superintendent at Mount Rainer National Park, said in the statement. “We continue to be in close contact with Dr. Dubal’s family and will keep them updated as new information becomes available.”
Earlier this week, Dubal’s family appealed to the park in a plea to continue their search for an alive Dubal, his sister, Dena Dubal, wrote in an email to The Seattle Times. She added that she and her family have “total respect” for the park’s search teams, and believe her brother is still in a “window of survivability, even with hunger and hypothermia.”
“Sam has with him overnight gear, rain gear, and snow gear as well as a cellphone and a charger,” Dena Dubal wrote. “… With a high level of fitness and experience, and gear including tent, sleeping bag, raincoat and more, there is a reasonable chance that he is currently surviving beyond missing Day 12.”
She added that because of severe weather that prevented search-and-rescue teams from exploring certain areas, there’s a better chance this weekend — which is expected to bring clearer weather — that their search could be successful.
“Sam is a humble guy, a lover of nature, and someone who seeks to find humanity in everyone. … He is a very fit and skilled hiker with tremendous experience, including in the Himalayas,” she wrote. “He was recently going (through) a hiking book of the Seattle area and a few weeks ago completed a hike even harder than this one. He is experienced.”