Search for missing skydiver officially called off
January 7, 2013
By Michele Mihalovich
Updated: 3:21 p.m., Jan. 7, 2013
After four days of trying to find a skydiver who went missing when he jumped from a helicopter near Mount Si, King County Sheriff’s Office has officially called off the search.
Sgt. Cindi West with the sheriff’s office said Jan. 7 that 386 search and rescue volunteers from 19 different agencies had gone over about nine square miles of terrain in search of 29-year-old Kurt Ruppert from Lake City, Fla.
“After four days of looking, we’ve had no luck,” she said. “The only areas left are steep sides and deep ravines that are not passable on foot. We don’t want to endanger the rescuers, and we’ve run out of places for them to look.”
About 2:30 p.m. Jan. 3, a helicopter pilot called the KCSO and said that Ruppert had skydived out of the helicopter and did not show up at the landing zone after the jump. West said the landing zone was on private property at the 43000 block of Southeast 92nd Street in North Bend, and was several acres of flat land.
The pilot said a group of three men were alternating going up in the helicopter to jump. One would jump while the others waited at the landing zone, according to a press release.
The men were on their second round of jumps when Ruppert disappeared. The pilot said the men were jumping from approximately 6,500 feet near a peak on the west side of the mountain. The peak near the jump location is approximately 2,500 feet, according to a press release.
The men waiting at the landing zone said their line of sight was blocked, so they did not see Ruppert jump out of the helicopter.
Ruppert was wearing a “winged suit” and the speed and height of the jump would enable him to travel a large distance in a short amount of time.
West said the likelihood of Ruppert surviving was thin.
“He wasn’t dressed for anything other than landing,” she said. “He did have thin thermals on, and possibly shorts, but he was not equipped to be out in that weather. And we don’t even know if his parachute deployed.”
West said the two men Ruppert went jumping with that day stuck around all weekend to assist investigators in trying to narrow down a search location.
She said the two weren’t allowed to help in the actual search, only trained volunteers were allowed on the dangerous terrain.
West said the weather conditions during the search efforts haven’t been ideal either. On Jan. 3, the day Ruppert went missing, rescuers were dealing with screaming winds and snow. She said the next three days were mostly very cold and rainy.
West said KCSO was in constant phone contact with Ruppert’s parents in Florida. She said the family was notified Sunday that the search was being called off and they were “as you can imagine, extremely upset. Our only option right now is if we get a clear day, we’ll send the helicopters up.”
West said she had never heard of people skydiving at Mount Si before the incident.
“Usually at this time of year, we’re getting calls of injured hikers, so this was a very unusual circumstance,” she said.
Michele Mihalovich: 392-6434, ext. 246, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.snovalleystar.com.