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Rescuers search for missing skydiver in Washington state

January 05, 2013|By Andrew Khouri
  • A King County Sheriff's Office helicopter flies over rugged terrain around Mount Si near North Bend, Wash., where searchers were looking for missing skydiver Kurt Ruppert of Florida.
A King County Sheriff's Office helicopter flies over rugged terrain… (Ted S. Warren / Associated…)

Authorities in Washington state narrowed their search Saturday for a skydiver who disappeared after jumping from a helicopter above the Cascade Mountains and are hoping to find the 29-year old alive after two days in the rugged terrain.

Sgt. Cindi West of the King County Sheriff's Office said authorities used cellphone signals and the helicopter’s flight pattern to focus on a quarter-square-mile area on Mt Si east of Seattle. The skydiver’s cellphone is no longer working, she said.

Kurt Ruppert, 29, of Lake City, Fla., was reported missing Thursday after he jumped from 6,500 feet. He was wearing a special winged suit that allows skydivers to glide long distances before deploying a parachute.

Two of Ruppert’s fellow skydivers waited for him at a landing area, but he never arrived.

They didn’t see Ruppert jump because their view was blocked, the sheriff’s office said.  It is unknown whether Ruppert’s parachute deployed.

“We are hoping he is alive and his parachute got stuck in a tree or something,” West told the Los Angeles Times. “We just don’t know.”

West said Ruppert was not prepared for the cold. Late Saturday afternoon the temperature hovered around 40 degrees. West said there were 145 rescuers searching Saturday.

Art Shaffer, owner of Skydive Palatka in Palatka, Fla., told the Associated Press that Ruppert went to Washington earlier this week to skydive with friends.

Shaffer, who jumped with Ruppert at midnight on New Year’s Eve, told the AP that Ruppert is an experienced skydiver who is skilled with a winged suit.

“We've got our fingers crossed,” he said.

Rescuers have been searching since Thursday after the helicopter pilot called the sheriff’s office around 2:30 p.m. On Friday, searchers spanned at least five square miles, searching through thick vegetation, but discontinued their search after dark.

The search will continue Saturday until nightfall and resume Sunday at daylight if Ruppert is not found, West said.


andrew.khouri@latimes.com

@khouriandrew

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