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Mount Rainier National Park searching for three missing hikers


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Several hikers have gone missing at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington, according to the National Park Service.

A fellow climber on Liberty Ridge (on the park’s north side) reported Matthew Bunker, of Seattle, missing at 3 p.m. on June 26. Bunker was skiing ahead of his partner at about 10,400 feet elevation; it’s suspected that he fell.

The spot where Bunker went missing is close to where six climbers died in 2014.

“It is very steep, terminates in cliffs, and is known for frequent avalanches and active rockfall,” according to a news release from National Park Service. “This, combined with the broken surface of the Carbon Glacier, will prevent the deployment of ground teams in this search.”

A National Park Service helicopter couldn’t locate the climber; down slope winds blocked the helicopter from flying close to the terrain. The severe down slope wind issues occurred that evening as well, and poor flying conditions blocked additional flights from going out on Saturday.

More helicopter searches will occur early this week when the weather is stable.

Two other hikers have also gone missing at the park: 25-year-old Vincent Djie in the Longmire area and 27-year-old Talal Sabbagh at Paradise.

Thursday marked the third day of searching for Dije (and he was last seen on June 19). The National Park Service won’t issue any updates until he is found and encourage people to call (360) 569-6683 with information about his location. Ground and aerial searches are ongoing. He was wearing black pants and a blue and white tie-dye shirt and carrying a small drawstring-type bag.

Friday was the fifth day of search operations for Sabbagh, and similar to Dije, the Park Service won’t release updates until “significant information” is found. He was last seen on Sunday, June 21, hiking in Paradise, wearing a light blue shirt under a black jacket, black shorts and dark Nike shoes. His vehicle was found in the parking lot there.

USA TODAY has reached out to the National Park Service for updates on all three hikers.

The Park Service is also not asking for public assistance in any of the searches. Dangerous late spring conditions could put people at risk, and if streams remain snow-covered, snow bridges may prove hazardous and could lead to new incidents, according to the latest update regarding Sabbagh. Hikers should practice precautions.

Don’t take unnecessary hiking risks

Hiking may prove particularly difficult amid the coronavirus pandemic, given limited resources.

“Our emergency responders are limited right now,” says Michelle Thompson, spokesperson for Arizona State Parks and Trails. “They’re busy working on a lot of other situations. We don’t want to have people putting themselves at risk on a trail and using those resources.”

The Washington Trails Association says hikers should not venture to spaces that might pose hazards that could lead to a fall or injury, necessitating a rescue. 

Hikers should take shorter hikes close to home instead of embarking on long-distance treks. 

“If you have not yet started your trip, stay home or consider hiking shorter segments along the trail where you can be fully self-sufficient without relying on others to help you with transportation, food and other services,” Arizona Trail Association executive director Matt Nelson wrote in a blog post. 

Contributing: Nicquel Terry Ellis and Weldon B. Johnson

Be safe: Hiking during the coronavirus pandemic? Here’s how to stay safe on the trails.

Q&A: What to know about the quarantine order if traveling to New York, New Jersey or Connecticut

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