Family of missing UW professor pleads for aggressive search efforts to continue at Mount Rainier National Park

A 33-year-old man is still missing after 13 days in Mount Rainier National Park. Sam Dubal was last seen hiking the Mother Mountain Loop out of the Mowich Lake Trailhead on October 9th and was due out on October 10th. Thursday marked day 11 of search and rescue efforts.

Dubal’s family is pleading to keep aggressive search efforts active, as they worry things are beginning to slow down.

“We cannot bare the thought of an abandoned search during a survival period,” said Dena Dubal, Sam’s sister.

The family has received ample updates from the Mount Rainier National Park daily, except for the past couple days according to Dubal. She said she is concerned this could mean crews are getting phased out due to bad weather and no new leads.

“It’s paramount that we express our gratitude. We are so grateful to the National Park Service and the brave searchers. But now we are specifically pleading with them to continue an aggressive search for 72 more hours,” said Dubal.

Thursday’s clear weather allowed search efforts to continue on the ground and in the air. Dubal said, unfortunately, weather has been treacherous on previous search days.

“While they have completed searches of likely areas, each one of those searches was seriously impeded by weather, treacherous weather. And the extent of the search on those days was limited and the ability to go back has not been explored,” said Dubal. “We want to convey total respect that NPS decisions regarding ground and air searches take into account weather and the safety and condition of the search crews.  With the weather clearing today and on the weekend, Mount Rainier opens opportunities to search in far, far better conditions than last week, which were met with heavy rain, hail, and more. We hope this improvement could help in a decision to continue an aggressive search and rescue.”

Dubal is an assistant professor at the University of Washington and scholar-anthropologist-trauma surgeon. He is also an experienced, physically fit hiker. His family said they believe his equipment and skills in the wilderness are keeping him alive.

“He has camped in the Himalaya, in places throughout the United States and he has gear with him. He has a tent, he has rain gear, he has snow gear. He is equipped,” said Dubal.

Patricia Wold, spokesperson for Mount Rainier National Park, gave background information of search efforts from the last few days. During Saturday’s good weather, there were 50 searching in the field, including a helicopter, drone and multiple dog teams. On Sunday, there were 22 people on the ground due to poor weather. Monday, there were six searchers on the ground. Tuesday, there were 26 searchers on the ground. Wednesday’s weather prevented both air and ground search efforts.

“Unfortunately, we are reaching a point where, with cold, snowy, stormy weather at high elevations, conditions are getting riskier for our searchers. At the same time, as time passes, the likelihood of a positive outcome begins to decline,” wrote Wold in an email to Q13 News.

Wold said search and rescue crews will spend Thursday and Friday assessing plans on how to move forward in the search. Dubal said it is critical the search remains aggressive.

“We do not mean to make unreasonable requests that could not be attended to. We wish to make a reasonable request. The longer the better, but at least 72 hours,” said Dubal. “From a medical perspective—given his fitness and the gear, it is medically survivable to be in these conditions (hunger, hypothermia) for two to three more days.”

As every minute passes, Dubal said she knows her brother is out there fighting for his life.

“He knows he is cared for, he knows he is prayed for and he is beloved by so many. We know he feels this and he is a determined individual,” said Dubal.

An online petition was created as an appeal to Mount Rainier National Park to continue an aggressive search.