Hiker’s family makes final search
Sarah O'Hare and Bridget Wallman wanted to fill the void in their chests after family member Brian Murphy disappeared earlier this month in a blizzard atop Mauna Kea.
The day after Christmas, the sisters-in-law traveled thousands of miles from Detroit to be on the dormant volcano where their father, a 67-year-old semiretired Detroit native, was last seen.
"We figured there have been a lot of good people already doing some of the things that we were going to do," O'Hare said yesterday by cell phone while on Mauna Kea. "We were realistic. I think you have to protect your heart -- you're going to go home alone."
Before he was reported missing, Murphy was vacationing on the Big Island. On Dec. 5 he stopped at the Onizuka Center for visitors at the 9,000-foot level on Mauna Kea and told an employee he wanted to hike to the summit.
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for the summit a few hours later, and a friend reported him missing that night. Authorities found his car in
the parking lot with his wallet inside.
Firefighters searched six consecutive days, by air and ground, but never found a sign of Murphy.
On Friday, firefighters, volunteers and Murphy's family members began a three-day search from the 8,800-to-10,000-foot level on the mountainside, checking tree to tree and under brushes and other crevices that provide shelter from the weather. About 25 people, including local volunteers and a tourist from Florida, joined the search each day.
"It's so densely thick in some areas, it could never be 100 percent cleared," said Big Island Fire Chief Darryl Oliveira. "The area's so vast, we just don't know what direction he was headed."
Search crews checked a gulch through which Murphy might have tried to escape. It runs miles up from Saddle Road and to the west of Humuula Trail, providing a footpath toward the 13,796-foot summit. Yesterday, crews checked a three-quarter-square-mile area east and south of the visitor center, another place where Murphy might have headed.
Trackers also checked an area with caves and lava overhangs above the visitor center, and used a Global Positioning System device to build a grid of their hunt.
Firefighters had reconvened the search because family members provided new information by hiking the trail and trying to determine Murphy's path based on his interests and abilities, Oliveira said.
After finding no signs of Murphy a second time, firefighters terminated the search yesterday.
The sisters plan to return home today.
"We will go home feeling better for having come," O'Hare said. "We found some closure and could thank a lot of people in person who've worked so hard. We feel they put in extraordinary effort. We're enormously grateful."