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Contact: Norma Sosa, 406 888-7895
WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Hikers and mountaineers continued to search some of northwestern Montana’s most forbidding terrain early today in an effort to find a missing hiker in Glacier National Park’s backcountry. Search managers said they continued to hope that additional information would be discovered about the hiker’s whereabouts, but that, absent such a development, they would scale back the operation.
The decision comes as family members of Yi-Jien Hwa, 27, began to arrive in Montana over the weekend. Officials of Glacier National Park are meeting with the family to discuss 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 National Park’s Superintendent, Chas Cartwright, said today. “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 young man, a native of Malaysia, was reported missing by family members on August 19th. The last confirmed sighting of Mr. Hwa was on August 11th when he picked up his backcountry permit.
But officials said that unless clues are found today that point to Mr. Hwa’s location or condition, the operation would be reduced beginning on Tuesday.
“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.”
Superintendent Cartwright said he was confident that a thorough investigation and search have been made.
“We have pursued every lead, committed necessary resources, and enlisted the help of agencies and groups that we felt could help us to resolve this puzzling case,” he said.
Suddath said today that the high-probability areas have been thoroughly searched. Today’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. Suddath has called it challenging terrain for even the most experienced climbers.
The duration of the search is determined each day, in part, by weather conditions. Searchers are monitoring today’s weather reports, which call for possible lightning and thunderstorms late in the day, and indicated that the search might be halted if dangerous conditions developed.
The National Park Service began investigating Mr. Hwa’s disappearance on August 19th and began looking for him on August 20th. Intensive, concentrated searches were organized and launched on the following day and continued through the weekend.
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, US Border Patrol, US Forest Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Glacier County Sheriff’s Department.
- NPS -