BREAKING NEWS - missing climber found deceased
A three-day search for a missing father of four has ended in a story of tragedy.
Parks Canada’s search and rescue team spotted the body of Ho-Seok (Michael) Hwang, 44, of Calgary, on 9,744-foot Castle Mountain during a helicopter search around 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday (Aug. 7).
Hwang’s body was spotted about 8,000 feet up the mountain, but rescuers have not been able to recover his body because of high winds. Rescuers plan to go back in Wednesday morning.
“Upon further examination, we are confirming it is the missing hiker, Michael Hwang. His family has been notified by Calgary Police Service and Victim Services,” said Cpl. Jeff Campbell of the Lake Louise RCMP detachment.
“It looks like he was descending down one of the cliff faces, rappelling, and it looks like he’s fallen onto the rocks below and has succumbed to his injuries.”
Hwang had gone hiking and climbing in the Castle Mountain area, about half way between Banff and Lake Louise, around 8 a.m. Saturday (Aug. 4). His concerned wife raised the alarm the following morning.
Parks Canada’s rescue specialists immediately mounted a ground and air search for Hwang, but other than finding his White Ford Taurus station wagon at the trailhead, there were no clues to his whereabouts for the first two days.
Campbell said Hwang’s body will be taken to the Calgary medical examiner’s office once recovered.
He said he has no idea at this point on how far Hwang fell, but once the body is recovered and they can take a closer look at his equipment, they will have a better idea of what caused him to fall.
“From the first indication at the scene it appears he ran out of rope, and we’re looking to see if there was a malfunction or whether it was due to inexperience and he went down an area had no business being in,” he said.
Campbell said he has not yet spoken to Hwang’s wife, but his condolences go out to her and their four young children.
“I was hoping he was hunkered down in an area and he couldn’t get out and we’d be able to rescue him,” he said.
“Sometimes we can’t recover or find a body, but at least now the search is over and it can give his family some closure.”
Hwang was a keen hiker and scrambler and had a helmet, ropes and harness with him and enough food and water for a day’s outing. Daytime temperatures are hot, but the nights dipped down to around 10 degrees.
After the alarm was raised, his station wagon was quickly located at the Castle Mountain trailhead parking lot early Sunday morning and there was no sign of foul play or anything suspicious.
Parks Canada mounted a rescue air and ground search and called in the park’s rescue dog.
The search for the first two days concentrated in the technical alpine region, but was broadened Tuesday morning to include a larger area and cover below tree-line.
Brian Webster, a search and rescue specialist for Parks Canada, had earlier said people heading out into the mountains should be well prepared and leave detailed information behind with a trusted person on where they’re going.
“If people are going out in the mountains they have to leave detailed information on where they’re going, what they’re doing and the exact route they’re doing,” he said.
“That way, if they get into trouble, this information will be a tremendous help to us in our search as we will know exactly where to go look.”
This is the third fatality in local mountains in recent weeks. Calgarians Ranjit Sidhu, 31, and Jane Vuong, 25, were rappelling down a sport-climbing route at Heart Creek east of Canmore when they fell to their death on July 29.
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