Man missing after SUV crash off cliff near Mount Rainier found safe

Man missing after SUV crash off cliff near Mount Rainier found safe
(Pierce County Sheriff's Department)

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — The family of a man who Pierce County deputies say was missing after he drove off a cliff near Mount Rainier National Park says he returned home and is safe.

Deputies said for the third time in less than a week, the deputies were called to a major incident in the area of the Carbon River entrance to Mount Rainier National Park.

At 8:50 p.m. Thursday, deputies from the Foothills Detachment received a call from an off-duty officer who spotted an SUV crashed off the side of SR 165 between Fairfax and Evans Creek. Deputies searched along the dirt road and found a white GMC Yukon that had gone over the edge of a cliff and rolled onto its side against several trees.

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A Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue team member was called and rappelled down to the SUV. No one was inside, but deputies found what looked like tracks from the SUV up the hill to the road.

The owner of the Yukon was contacted and told police their adult son was using the SUV and had not been heard from since noon. Police were told the driver is not from Pierce County and was unfamiliar with the area where the Yukon was found crashed.

Deputies asked for the driver’s cellphone to be pinged and also requested help from Washington State Patrol’s airplane to search the area for the man.

Fearing the man was hurt, lost or disoriented, deputies did a thorough search along SR 165, Mowich Lake Road and Fairfax Forest Reserve Road through the night and into the early morning.

At 3:36 a.m., the driver's family called deputies and said the man had returned home. They said the driver had climbed out of the crashed SUV, ran down the road, and then found several people to give him rides out of the area and back home.

The Sheriff’s Department said a fatal off-road crash occurred in the same area six days earlier.