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Originally published April 14, 2013 at 7:22 PM | Page modified April 15, 2013 at 12:10 PM

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Woman killed by avalanche was Bellevue naturopathic physician

The woman who died after she was buried in an avalanche near Snoqualmie Pass has been identified as Bellevue naturopathic physician Dr. Joy Yu. The search for a man caught in a second slide has been suspended.

Seattle Times staff reporters

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The woman who died after she was buried in an avalanche Saturday on Red Mountain has been identified as Dr. Joy Yu, a naturopathic physician.

Yu worked at the Creekside Center for Integrative Medicine in Bellevue, according to a billing receptionist at the office who was too upset to provide additional details. She said Yu’s relatives were on their way to town after learning of the accident.

Yu has a blog that identifies her as an active Northwest hiker and dog lover.

Yu was one of two people hit by an avalanche in separate incidents Saturday near Snoqualmie Pass. A man who’s been missing in an avalanche on Granite Mountain has been identified as 61-year-old Mitch Hungate, a Renton dentist, according to KING 5 news, a Seattle Times news partner.

The search for Hungate has been suspended indefinitely, as rescuers believe the conditions on Granite Mountain nare too dangerous.

Two other men were carried along with Hungate in the Granite Mountain avalanche, but they have been located. A GPS device worn by one of the men showed they tumbled down the slope more than 1,200 feet in less than one minute, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Hungate did not emerge from the snow slide. Described as an experienced outdoorsman, Hungate was “always out hiking and climbing,” according to Bruce Kolpack, who has climbed with him. “He stays in really good shape.”

Hungate’s wife and sister are on the mountain awaiting news.

“All of us stayed up here in the hope against hope that there would be a rescue,” Hungate’s wife, Marilynn, told KING 5. “I really didn’t want to leave him. I want to be with him until he can be here with us.”

Yu was pronounced dead after rescuers transported her down from Red Mountain at about midnight . The Sheriff’s Office said she had a pulse when she was dug from the snow. Rescuers, who hiked nearly three hours to reach her, spent six hours carrying her on a sled off the mountain, but she did not survive.

Other snowshoers located Yu about 45 minutes after an avalanche hit and found her face down in about 5 feet of snow. Her dog, a black-and-white border collie/sheltie mix named Blue, showed up unaccompanied, alerting them that the woman was missing.

The search for Hungate was suspended about 8 p.m. Saturday and did not resume Sunday.

“It’s so unstable, we don’t want to risk our search-and-rescue members’ lives,” said Cindi West, of the Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office is warning the public to stay away from the area, she added.

About 50 rescuers with dog teams searched for Hungate on Saturday but battled “horrible” conditions, according to Katie Larson, of the Sheriff’s Office. Overnight, the mountain got another “big dump of snow,” making the conditions too dangerous to send in searchers, she said.

His two companions suffered non-life-threatening shoulder and hamstring injuries, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The Granite Mountain avalanche occurred first, at about noon Saturday, near Interstate 90s exit 47. The Red Mountain slide hit about a half-hour later, a few miles east near the Alpental ski area.

In all, more than 100 members of search-and-rescue teams from Seattle, Everett, Pierce County and Yakima participated in searches at the two avalanche scenes.

At the Red Mountain site, Yu had been snowshoeing with her dog behind a group of 12 other snowshoers when the avalanche struck.

The group of 12 was split up by the avalanche, with four making it off the mountain on their own by 5 p.m.

The remaining eight snowshoers, who were at about 4,800 feet, realized Yu was missing when the dog came up to them afterward. They were able to find Yu and dig her out. They tried to keep her warm as they waited about 2½ hours for rescuers to reach them. The rescue party did not reach the parking lot until about midnight Saturday, and by that time Yu had died.

The last avalanche fatalities in this area occurred in February 2012 when four people were killed at Stevens Pass and near the Summit at Snoqualmie, Larson said.

She said avalanches can be common this time of year.

“Whenever you have warm weather and then cold weather and snow, it can be bad,” she said.

Paul Baugher, director of the Northwest Avalanche Institute, which offers avalanche consulting and safety training, said the forecast for avalanches at Snoqualmie was “high” on Saturday.

“Because of the cold temperatures, the snow underneath is relatively well frozen and stable,” he said. “But there’s a poor bond between the new snow coming down and old snow, which is very hard and slippery. That produces soft slabs of very sensitive snow.”

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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