News Release

Liberty Ridge Search Confirms Skier Fatality

Matthew Bunker stands with his bicycle with snowcapped mountains in the background.

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News Release Date: June 29, 2020

Contact: Patti Wold, 360-569-6701

The body of a missing climber was located today along the base of Liberty Ridge. Matthew Bunker, 28-years-old of Seattle, was reported missing on Liberty Ridge by the other member of his climbing party on Friday, June 26. Bunker was skiing behind his partner at approximately 10,400 feet in elevation, near Thumb Rock. As they were descending from Thumb Rock, unknown events caused his fall in steep, treacherous terrain.

The National Park Service’s exclusive use A-Star B3 helicopter, with Mount Rainier National Park climbing rangers aboard, conducted several aerial reconnaissance missions during the search. On previous missions, the helicopter crew encountered severe downslope winds and clouds which hampered search efforts. Clear skies on June 29th at the incident location, along with a change in wind strength and direction, allowed the park helicopter and climbing rangers to fly close enough to the mountain long enough to conduct a thorough search. He was located in a crevasse at the base of a cliff that is inaccessible by ground or aviation teams. The area is subject to continuous rock and ice fall which pose too high of a risk for rescue personnel to access the location and recover Matthew.

“We extend our deepest condolences to Matthew’s loved ones and friends” stated Tracy Swartout, Deputy Superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park. “It brings us a great degree of sorrow to be unable to bring him home to his family.” Matthew’s parents, Carolyn and Joe Bunker, live in Delavan, Wisconsin, his hometown. Bunker graduated from West Point in 2013 and proudly spent five years in the military serving his country.

Two unrelated ground search efforts continue for Vincent Djie in the Longmire/Van Trump area, and Talal Sabbagh in the Paradise area, as local conditions allow. Regarding these two ongoing searches, the park continues to work closely with the two families. Deputy Superintendent Swartout shared “each and every person that goes missing on Mount Rainier is deeply concerning. Our collective hearts ache with the families and loved ones of those who remain missing, who are seeking solace and answers during some of the most difficult days of their lives.”

Park staff appreciate the public sharing valuable information in the early days of the searches for Vincent and Talal. Please note that Mount Rainier National Park is not requesting assistance from the public in these ongoing ground searches. Dangerous late spring conditions, including widespread unstable snow bridges over hundreds of creeks exist, putting independent searchers at risk and potentially creating new incidents. New incidents created by independent search parties would divert professional search teams from their current (and future) operations. Detailed information on the other two ongoing searches is available here, and additional updates will be provided as developments in the search operations occur.
 
NPS

 



Last updated: June 29, 2020

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