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Bellevue hikers in deadly snowstorm on Rainier identified

Three Mount Rainier hikers from Bellevue, one of whom died and the others injured after getting caught in a blizzard overnight, have been identified.

The hikers, including a married couple identified as Eduard Burceag, 31 and wife, Mariana, also 31, had day-hiked to Camp Muir Monday, along with Daniel Vlad, 35.

The group got caught in an unexpected blizzard coming down the mountain that forced them to spend Monday and Tuesday night there, according to Mount Rainier National Park spokesman Kevin Bacher.

Eduard Burceag died on the mountain, likely from hypothermia, Bacher said.

The two others were rescued by helicopter Wednesday morning and are in stable condition after suffering from hypothermia and frostbite.

Mount Rainier park rangers learned of the emergency at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday when they received an emergency call from the hikers who were trapped on the Muir Snowfield.

“Because of weather conditions and poor visibility we were unable to initiate a search in the middle of the night,” said Bacher, noting that the blizzard had stirred up 70 mph winds and 5-foot snowdrifts.

At 7:15 a.m., Vlad reached Camp Muir, at an elevation of 10,188 feet. He was able to lead rangers and mountain guides to the other hikers 500 feet below the camp to Anvil Rock. Eduard Burceag was unconscious and unresponsive at that time, officials said.

Rescuers brought the hikers to a shelter at Camp Muir, where they had access to hot food and warm liquids.

Three medical doctors, who happened to be at the camp as part of a climb led by Ashford-based Rainier Mountaineering, Inc., attempted to revive Burceag.

However, they declared him dead soon after.

The doctors also treated the other hikers for hypothermia, but they still needed medical attention for severe frostbite, particularly Mariana, whose feet were severely frostbitten.

Rescuers advised officials that it would be safer to keep the hikers at the shelter until visibility was clear enough for them to be flown out.

At 6:15 Wednesday morning, the weather cleared and a Fort Lewis Army helicopter hoisted the survivors aboard and flew them to Madigan Army Medical Center for treatment.

They were later transported to Harborview Medical Center.

“I know when they were flown out their condition was pretty good,” Bacher said. “The woman suffered the worse injuries besides the fatality. She had frostbitten feet, so she had difficulty walking, but with some assistance she made it to the helicopter.”

As of the Reporter’s deadline, park officials were still waiting for the stormy weather to subside in order to recover the man’s body via helicopter.

Bacher said all of the hikers have had a passion for climbing and were experienced, having hiked Mount Rainier many times before. Both Eduard Burceag and Vlad had reached the summit two years ago.

“They were very much aware of the challenges of climbing in the Pacific Northwest, but also weren’t intimidated by that,” he said. “Those of us who enjoy hiking really have to put up with inclement weather or you would never get out of your house 10 months out of the year.”

Snow storms can happen on the mountain any time of the year, Bach said, however, “to get that much snow that quickly and with the high winds in the middle of June is unusual.”

Carrie Wood can be reached at cwood@reporternewspapers.com or 425-453-4290.

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