Bear Valley Ski Resort CA

Thomas Mullarkey - Strange disappearances from U.S. mountains

Thomas Mullarkey, disappeared March 14th, 2018, Bear Valley Ski Resort, california

Thomas Mullarkey disappearance

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.

Bear Valley Ski resort California

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."

Thomas mullarkey disappearance Bear Valley

"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?


Katherine Wong - Strange deaths on U.S. mountains

Dr. Katherine Wong disappearance bear valley

Dr. Katherine Wong, Disappeared February 19th, 1999, Body found June 10th, 1999, Bear Valley Ski Resort, California.

Dr. Katherine Wong, 48, was a San Jose paediatrician and Milpitas resident who mysteriously disappeared from the Bear Valley Ski Resort, south of Lake Tahoe in California. Dr. Wong had gone skiing with her husband, 52-year-old paediatric dentist John Wong, two relatives and two of her three children, a 9-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son. She was an intermediate level skier and visited California's ski resorts on a regular basis.

She was last seen February 19, 1999 at the ski resort, south of Lake Tahoe. It is located on Highway 4 between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite in the Central Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and is described as a family-friendly resort that accommodates skiers and riders of all levels and abilities. It has more than 75 trails, 1,680 skiable acres and 1,900 feet of vertical drop, all serviced by a total of ten lifts. It was the family's first visit to Bear Valley, as they had heard it was one of the quieter resorts.

Katherine ate lunch with the group about 11.30 a.m. and skied for the next few hours with her husband, whilst the kids went their adult cousin.

About 3:45 pm, Katherine took a ski lift up the mountain with her husband, but then they separated and she took a different path down using the Mokelumne West Run, an intermediate slope. When John reached the bottom of the slope his wife was nowhere to be seen. Dr. Wong was wearing a light gray jacket and light blue pants and ski boots when she disappeared. She had black hair, brown eyes, is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighed about 118 pounds.

Bear Valley  lifts and slopes

John and their son looked for Katherine for about 30 minutes and then notified resort officials that she had gone missing. The Alpine County Sheriff's Department and Bear Valley ski patrols searched for her with the assistance of two helicopters, ten winter-trained dog teams and about 50 search experts from nearly a dozen law enforcement agencies.

Two days later, the search was called off a winter storm brought in heavy snow and officials told the family that the chances of surviving such a storm were slim to none. After such a significant search for Katherine, the authorities believed she may have met with foul play or left the resort. ''There are no tracks going out, except for animal tracks,'' Deputy Sheriff Matt Streck said. ''But if she's here, she's not able to respond to us.''

John Wong and the rest of the family were interviewed and, he voluntarily took a lie detector test and authorities subsequently confirmed that he was not a suspect. He confirmed that Katherine was a cautious skier and after over 20 years of marriage he believed it was highly unlikely she had run off with another man, especially leaving her children behind. John complained that officials gave up too soon in the initial search for his wife.

The FBI was involved to help detectives review surveillance tapes. FBI spokesman George Grotzsaid said "Absent evidence of foul play or possible interstate aspects, we will not be involved (further). We've discussed it with them, and we can assist when asked."

The Alpine County Sheriff's Department interviewed ski lift operators and other employees who may have seen Wong that day. Although credit card receipts prove that Katherine did purchase lift tickets at Bear Valley on February 19th, ski lift operators did not recall seeing anyone fitting her description. A review of surveillance tapes from the ski resort did not show anything suspicious.

Deputy Matt Streck of the Sheriff's Department said the initial search for Wong was one of the most comprehensive operations he has seen in years saying that "I've personally hiked miles and miles myself since this happened," Streck said he found it unusual that searchers have not found any signs of the doctor at the ski area. "I think as time goes by, it will become more evident that this was not a ski accident. But I have no proof of that."

On June 10th, 1999, Katherine's body was eventually found, around four months after she went missing. She was found in a steep ravine, in a heavily wooded canyon a half-mile south of the ski area and marked trails. Bone fragments and pieces of hair were found scattered over a quarter-mile square area together with a ski lift ticket, driver's license and bank credit card belonging to Wong as well as a parka, ski pants, boots, a wristwatch, skis and ski poles and other personal effects.

Investigators were baffled how she came to be in the area where her remains and personal effects were found since the ravine is well outside the ski resort, in a remote area about 400 yards away from a group of homes. Police found no evidence of foul play and believed it was an unfortunate accident when Katherine became lost and hypothermic. Searchers had not bothered to look earlier in the area where the bone fragments were found because it was considered highly unlikely that Katherine would have ventured there since it was in an area that would be difficult to reach by accident. Also, the area was covered by eight feet of snow shortly after she disappeared. But the fact that it was not searched, confirmed John Wong's complaints about the thoroughness of the initial search, though recent melting of the snow had made the ravine more accessible.

Because of the dispersal and scarcity of the bones, investigators speculate that wild animals may have disturbed Wong's body after her death.