Thomas Mullarkey, disappeared March 14th, 2018, Bear Valley Ski Resort, california
UPDATE May 15th 2018: Body discovered May 2018: See link
Thomas Mullarkey, 65, went skiing March 14, 2018 in California's Bear Valley Ski Resort, south of Lake Tahoe. He failed to return from the trip, which he had made many times before. For Tom this was very unusual as he was an advanced skier, experienced outdoorsman and backcountry visitor. Bear Valley has been the scene of several strange disappearances and deaths including that of Dr. Katherine Wong in June 1999.
He was last seen boarding a chairlift up the mountain in the morning. At 11.30 pm that day, his wife, Jane Drummond-Mullarkey, informed authorities her husband failed to return to his Arnold cabin. He was last seen wearing a blue ski outfit with yellow and red details. Tom was considered to be in good health.
Teams were unable to search the area that night due to extreme avalanche conditions, but at around 7 am on Thursday, March 15th, rescuers began searching for Mullarkey.
Authorities located his vehicle at the resort with a cellphone inside shortly after the search began. Efforts were concentrated within the 1,700-acre ski resort. But no other clues emerged, including no sign of his gloves, ski poles or other equipment. He was not known to go off piste or into areas areas prone to avalanches and searchers believed he did not leave the resort area voluntarily.
Heavy snowfall hindered the initial search efforts and searchers were limited to using skis and snowshoes during daylight hours only. A Blackhawk helicopter from the National Guard and another helicopter volunteered by the California Highway Patrol were grounded for two days because of the weather.
Around 150 representatives from El Dorado, Tuolumne and Marin counties, the National Ski Patrol, Bay Area Mountain Rescue, the California Office of Emergency Services, Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office and others assisted in the search.
When the weather improved, a fixed-wing military RC-26 surveillance plane with infrared imagery was used to search the hillsides outside the boundaries that had been covered the day before.
After five days the search was called off on Tuesday March 20th as a storm dumped heavy snow in the area.
The authorities thought it was unlikely that Tom was hit by an undiscovered avalanche which may have occurred within the boundaries of Bear Valley, where ski patrollers clear likely avalanche spots on a regular basis.
Tom's nephew, Markus Mullarkey said "He's been at this mountain many times. We've been snow camping literally at Tamarack right around the corner here. So there's still that possibility that he can survive this, and build a snow cave and stay warm enough until we find him."
"A lot of people in the family have said, if there's anybody in the family who could figure out how to weather this and make it through, it would be him. But it's tough you know, obviously (for) the family. It's nice we have a very big family, so there's a lot of people up here kinda holding it together with each other as much as we can."
His niece, Andrea Mullarkey, says he was skiing alone and may have been in the backcountry. "There's a lot of country out there and it's really hard to get around in this weather but we're really hopeful because we know he's smart and has experience and there are lots of people out looking. He has a really good head on his shoulders. He knows a lot about being outdoors."
Alpine County Undersheriff Spencer Case said “Search and Rescue personnel have conducted a thorough and methodical search operation during periods of heavy snowfall, white-out conditions, and single-digit temperatures.”
Following the end of the search on March 20th, Tom Mullarkey remains missing somewhere in the Bear Valley resort. If not an avalanche, what caused the disappearance of this outdoors savvy guy in good health?