POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, May 26, 2011
Question: Whatever happened to the search for hiker Brian Murphy of Plymouth, Mich., who was reported missing during a blizzard on Mauna Kea in December 2007?
Answer: It is a missing-person case that has been suspended, but not closed, said Chris Loos, Hawaii County police spokeswoman. There have no new leads in the “cold case,” Loos said.
Murphy, 67, went hiking alone on Dec. 5, 2007, disregarding warnings from a state ranger about the challenging terrain and cold weather. The temperature was in the low 50s and there were reports of an impending snowstorm.
Murphy, a father of two and grandfather of five, had spoken to a Mauna Kea visitor center employee about hiking up the Humuula Trail, a steep footpath that leads toward the 13,796-foot summit. He was wearing only a light shirt and slacks.
Murphy left about noon, leaving his car at the Onizuka Center visitor information station at the 9,000-foot level.
That night the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for Mauna Kea’s summit. Wind was expected to reach 70 mph. The wind created snowdrifts 10 feet deep and 100 feet long.
A friend reported Murphy missing the same night. Authorities found his car in the parking lot with his wallet inside. A total of 52 personnel from the Mauna Kea ranger force, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Pohakuloa Training Area participated in the search. About five square miles were searched on foot from the 8,000-foot elevation to the 13,400-foot level. Aerial searches scanned about 30 square miles from the 6,300-foot level to the 11,000-foot level.
Rescuers used all-terrain vehicles, two helicopters and several other vehicles. At 13,000 feet, fire officials said the temperature at night dropped to 10 degrees below zero.
Rescuers at the time said they believed Murphy might have been injured in a fall.
Murphy’s sisters-in-law, Sarah O’Hare and Bridget Wallman, traveled from Detroit to join in the search, which was called off on Dec. 30, 2007.
This update was written by Gregg K. Kakesako. You can write to us at Whatever Happened To …, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or email email@example.com.