Officials believe a hiker has found the body of Zach Krull, who never returned from an April camping trip near the Staircase Campground. (Stewart Krull)

Officials believe a hiker has found the body of Zach Krull, who never returned from an April camping trip near the Staircase Campground. (Stewart Krull)

Official: Body recovered from Olympic National Park likely missing hiker

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — A hiker has found a body in Olympic National Park that officials believe is likely missing hiker Zach Krull.

The unidentified hiker found the body Saturday night in Olympic National Park by a creek near Flapjack Lakes, about 2 miles north of Lake Cushman, said Mason County Coroner Wes Stockwell.

The body was recovered by a ranger-led team Sunday and flown to Sanderson Field, the Shelton airport, at about 3 p.m.

“We have not positively identified him,” Stockwell said, adding he will likely know for sure by Wednesday after dental records are compared.

Olympic National Park officials did not return phone calls Monday.

Krull, a 20-year-old from Livingston, N.J., who had just started his freshman year at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, was scheduled to return from a solo camping trip from the nearby Staircase Campground in early April.

On April 14, search and rescue crews found a week-old set of tracks that went through an area hit by an avalanche, officials said in April. It wasn’t known if the tracks belonged to Krull, but officials scaled back efforts shortly thereafter.

Based on the gear that was discovered, Stockwell said he believes it was Krull who has been found, but he needs to confirm the identity, he said.

At this point it’s too early to know the cause of death, he said.

“We just don’t know,” he said. “It’s just too early.”

For Krull’s father, Stewart Krull, news that his son might have been found is providing closure after 12 long weeks of not knowing.

Stewart said his family held a memorial service for Zach in late April after it became clear it was likely a recovery mission.

“Rationally, we knew he was gone,” he said. “When you finally know for a fact that he’s deceased, when people find him and you know there’s no other answer, it’s devastating.”

He said his family plans to live their lives in a way that will honor Zach and his passion for the environment and outdoors.

Zach planned to become a forest ranger, and he loved the Pacific Northwest. He was a skilled photographer, music producer and Mets fan, Stewart said.

“He was passionate about his love of the environment and outdoors,” he said. “We’re going to do what we can to continue that mission in his name.”

He said his family has been grateful for everyone who has shown support and for everyone who helped with the search.

Stewart said he had been in constant contact with Olympic Mountain Rescue and other officials who had continued to search.

“We have been so fortunate to have met these people and for all the support they gave us when Zach first went missing,” he said. “It’s been the one positive thing. They’ve really been there for us.”

Now, his thoughts are with the family of Jacob Gray, another hiker who disappeared in Olympic National Park at about the same time as Krull.

Gray, 22, was first reported missing after his bike and camping gear were found in brush on the side of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road on April 6.

“We hope they get answers themselves soon,” he said.

As Krull’s family searched for answers, Stewart said his family and the families of other missing hikers bonded.

He said Sally Guyton Fowler, whose stepson, Kris Fowler, had disappeared while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in October, has helped his family and provided advice.

“[She] has been an ambassador for everyone who has lost someone this way,” Stewart said. “We’re grateful for the connection we made with her.”

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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