Search called off for Indian-American Professor at University of Washington

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Indian American professor Sam Dubal, 33 was last known to be hiking the Mother Mountain Loop out of the Mowich Lake Trailhead, departing on Friday, October 9, and due out on Saturday, October 10. Photo Courtesy – University of Washington

Sam Dubal, 33 who is an assistant professor of Anthropology at University of Washington, has been reportedly missing since October 12. Family members have seemingly given up the chances of his survival and started grieving the loss of his life.

The National Park Service (NPS) was rigorously searching for Dubal before the search was called off on October 26, 2020.

According to press releases from the National Park Service, Dubal’s last known whereabouts were of him hiking at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington departing on Friday, October 9.

He was reported missing a few days after he did not return according to his itinerary. Park rangers spent several days and resources searching for the professor but to no avail. Family members announced on October 26 that they were calling off the search.

The series of events that preceded giving up the search are spelt out in the NPS press releases. They recount that the Indian American professor was last known to be hiking the Mother Mountain Loop out of the Mowich Lake Trailhead, departing on Friday, Oct. 9 and due out on Saturday, Oct.10, 2020.

Fellow hikers confirmed that Dubal was on his itinerary the first day, but he did not return to his car on Saturday as planned, and he was reported missing midday on Monday, October 12.

It is believed a storm on October 10, the day after Dubal began his hike, washed out the rustic river crossing he would have used to cross the Carbon River.

Teams of NPS rangers began searching that afternoon, and continued searching through the night, with the help of a U.S. Air Force helicopter. For the next several days, numerous park rangers, mountain rescue volunteers, and search dogs continued the search on foot.

The primary search area was defined by the 17-mile Mother Mountain Loop trail, with teams increasingly branching off to explore spur trails leading higher on Mount Rainier and river drainages leading off it.

The terrain includes rugged, remote wilderness, with dense forests at elevations from 2,000 to 5,000 feet and exposed subalpine meadows blanketed with fresh autumn snowfall above it.

Rangers coordinated the search with the Washington State Emergency Operations Center and other state and local resources, who provided highly skilled rescuers trained to search in hazardous conditions and poor weather.

A distinctive water bottle, believed to belong to Dubal, was found along the trail that afternoon, but did not lead to any further discoveries. In addition, a team from Seattle Mountain Rescue used an aerial drone to explore a hard-to-reach section of old trail.

According to a petition filed by Dubal’s sisters, Dena and Veena and parents, Bharat and Saroj, search began phasing out on Day 11 as weather conditions deteriorated. They believed Dubal was fit and experienced enough to survive and pleaded officials continue searching for a few more days.

Dubal is apparently a skilled hiker experience in the Himalayas as well. He was recently going through a hiking book of the Seattle area and a few weeks ago completed a hike even harder than this one, the petition said.

“There is a very high chance that Sam is alive. With a high level of fitness and experience and gear including tent, sleeping bag, raincoat and more, there is a reasonable chance that he is currently surviving,” said family members in the petition. It gathered 50,799 signatures and the search was renewed.

With an improved weather window, search teams in Mount Rainier National Park resumed ground-based search operations early Sunday, October 25 for missing hiker, Dubal.

However, on October 26, the search was called off. “We carry your prayers, thoughts & good wishes for Sam Dubal as we begin to grieve & celebrate his remarkable life & kind soul. After a thorough search, the outer limits of time for survivability have passed. Our deepest gratitude to all, including the brave searchers & community,” said sister Veena in a tweet on the same day.

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