Ground search ends for Fla. skydiver near Mount Si



NORTH BEND — 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 Kurt Ruppert, 29, 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 brown-and-green wing suit with fabric under the arms to allow him to glide like a flying squirrel.

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 the search difficult, including the suit, which could carry Ruppert great distances quickly, sheriff’s Sgt. Cindi West has said.

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

Ruppert was skydiving with two friends, and they were taking turns jumping. 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.