Ground search ends for skydiver missing in Wash.

AP News
Posted: Jan 06, 2013 10:46 PM
Ground search ends for skydiver missing in Wash.

NORTH BEND, Wash. (AP) — The ground search for a Florida skydiver who vanished during a jump above Washington's Cascade foothills ended Sunday without a sign of the man.

The King County sheriff's office said crews combed roughly 9 miles of an area near Mount Si for 29-year-old Kurt Ruppert but that the air search would continue.

The Lake City, Fla., man hasn't been seen since he jumped out of a helicopter at 6,500 feet on Thursday. He was wearing a special wing suit with fabric under the arms to allow him to glide like a flying squirrel.

The jumpsuit is brown and green, which will likely blend into the terrain.

Crews narrowed their search area Saturday, based on data from Ruppert's cellphone and the helicopter's flight path.

Authorities know the flight pattern of the aircraft, but a number of factors have made it difficult to find Ruppert, including the suit, which could allow him to travel large distances in a short time, sheriff's Sgt. Cindi West has said.

Searchers were hoping Ruppert was stuck in a tree with his parachute or perhaps lost in rugged state-owned land around the 4,200-foot high Mount Si, which is east of Seattle, West said.

Mount Si, which is covered with trees on steep slopes, is popular with hikers even though it can be treacherous. West said the searchers have checked areas that could reached by foot.

Ruppert was skydiving with two friends, and they were taking turns jumping from the helicopter. The friends were waiting at a grassy landing area, but no one saw whether Ruppert's chute deployed.

Friends say Ruppert has been skydiving seven or eight years and is good at handling a wing suit.