Glacier National Park Officials Plan to Scale Down Search for Missing Hiker
Glacier National Park officials, frustrated by six days of fruitless searching for a missing hiker, say they'll scale back efforts on Tuesday unless new leads are discovered.
The search for 27-year-old Yi-Jien Hwa, of Malaysia, was launched August 20, a day after his family reported him missing. The search for the hiker has been concentrated south and west of Logan Pass in the heart of the park.
The decision to scale back the search without new leads comes shortly after family members of the young man arrived in Montana. Park officials have been discussing with the family the search and to assure them that efforts to resolve the questions of his whereabouts and condition would continue.
“We know that Yi-Jien’s family is going through a most difficult time,” Glacier Superintendent Chas Cartwright said Monday. “We want them to know how deeply we feel for them and support them.”
The search and rescue incident management team said the searchers would continue looking through areas listed on a backcountry permit obtained for a planned hike by Mr. Hwa. The last confirmed sighting of Mr. Hwa was on August 11th when he picked up his backcountry permit.
“We are still hopeful that additional information will eventually surface that will lead us to Yi-Jien,” the operation’s Incident Commander, Patrick Suddath, said. “But we know that the odds for that outcome are reduced with each day that goes by. In the absence of a promising development, we will be scaling back the operation.”
Ranger Suddath said that the high-probability areas have been thoroughly searched. Monday’s search moved into other areas with lower probability as well as other areas along Mr. Hwa’s planned route. Searchers will go back to the area as clues or other information dictate.
Experienced hikers and specialized alpine search teams, as well as veteran long-distance searchers who have remained in the Park for several days, have been closely inspecting the diverse topographical features of the area.
The search area is rich in lakes, cliff bands made slippery by rain and snow, glaciers, glacial melt ponds, crevasses, ice and snow bridges, forests, and shaded areas near ridges with fresh snow. Ranger Suddath has called it challenging terrain for even the most experienced climbers.
Ranger Suddath estimated that more than 2,500 search hours would be reached by the end of today’s operation. The team has had the use of two helicopters, heat-sensing equipment, human-detection dogs, and mounted horse patrols.
The operation has received assistance from a number of government and private sources, including the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Forest Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Glacier County Sheriff’s Department.