Searchers find body of man missing in Granite Mtn. avalanche

GRANITE MOUNTAIN, Wash. - A searching party has found the body of a 61-year-old dentist who was swept away by an avalanche last month on Granite Mountain, officials said Wednesday.

The missing man, Mitch Hungate of Kent, disappeared April 13 when an avalanche struck as he and two friends were snowshoeing in the area, near milepost 47 on Interstate 90.

Search parties were unable to find Hungate in the hours and days immediately afterward, and the search for him eventually was suspended due to the continuing high avalanche danger in the mountains above 4,000 feet.

Searchers resumed the search early Wednesday as warm weather melted the snow in the area, significantly lowering the avalanche danger, said Cindi West of the King County Sheriff's Office.

"They had a crew up there pretty early this morning, and they said they located him," West said in an interview with KOMO Newsradio. "It will take us a few hours to get his body down. ... We're happy that we finally found him."

Before searchers brought Mitch off the trail, they gave his sister and wife Marilyn a few private moments at his side.

"I cried on him," said Cheryl Hungate, Mitch's sister. "I was able to kneel down next to him when we were bringing him out and love him and give him my last thoughts."

Mitch Hungate was swept more than 1,200 feet down the mountain when the avalanche struck, carrying him and his two friends down the slope at speeds of more than 50 mph, according to a GPS device one of them was carrying.

The two friends were unable to find Hungate, nor was a larger search party that responded to the scene afterward.

Hungate, a married stepfather with a dental practice in Renton, was a triathlete who worked out several hours a day.

One other person, Joy Yu, 55, was killed in a separate avalanche a few miles away near the Alpental ski area the same day that Hungate disappeared. She was a naturopathic physician who practiced in Bellevue.