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Ground search for missing skydiver in Wash. stopped

NORTH BEND, Wash. The ground search for a Florida skydiver who vanished during a jump above Washington's Cascade foothills ended Sunday without a sign of the man.

The King County sheriff's office said crews combed roughly nine miles of an area near Mount Si for 29-year-old Kurt Ruppert but that the air search would continue.

The Lake City, Fla., man hasn't been seen since he jumped out of a helicopter at 6,500 feet on Thursday. He was wearing a special wing suit with fabric under the arms to allow him to glide like a flying squirrel.

The jumpsuit is brown and green, which will likely blend into the terrain.

Crews narrowed their search area Saturday, based on data from Ruppert's cellphone and the helicopter's flight path. But searchers told CBS affiliate KIRO-TV in Seattle, Wash. that because it is unknown what path the skydiver took after he jumped, it became harder to find him, creating a search area at least 5 square miles.

"When he jumped, likely he flew at least some distance before he deployed his parachute -- if he even got the parachute deployed -- so we really have quite a few mile radius that we're looking for here," Sgt. Cindi West of the King County Sheriff's Office said to KIRO-TV.

Authorities know the flight pattern of the aircraft, but a number of factors have made it difficult to find Ruppert, including the suit, which could allow him to travel large distances in a short time, West has said.

Searchers were hoping Ruppert was stuck in a tree with his parachute or perhaps lost in rugged state-owned land around the 4,200-foot high Mount Si, which is east of Seattle, West said.

Mount Si, which is covered with trees on steep slopes, is popular with hikers even though it can be treacherous. West said the searchers have checked areas that could reached by foot.

Ruppert was skydiving with two friends, and they were taking turns jumping from the helicopter. The friends were waiting at a grassy landing area, but no one saw whether Ruppert's chute deployed.

Friends say Ruppert has been skydiving seven or eight years and is good at handling a wing suit, which allows jumpers to achieve speeds of up to 60 to 70 mph. According to KIRO-TV, he had about 1,000 jumps on his resume.

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