College, state officials investigate cause of missing student incident

by Savannah Eller | 5/24/19 2:15am

moosilauke

Anand was rescued after going missing for two days during a hiking trip that left from Moosilauke Ravine Lodge.

by Debora Hyemin Han / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Both the College and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department are currently investigating how Arun Hari Anand ’19 was separated from May 10 until May 12 from a Mount Moosilauke hiking trip led by Dartmouth’s Outdoor Programs Office. While the large search-and-rescue operation to find Anand ended successfully, questions remain over how the student became lost and whether the trip met reasonable safety guidelines. 

In an email statement to The Dartmouth, College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote that the College is looking into the incident as a possible case of negligence, saying the College uncovered “a number of troubling factors concerning the way the trip to Mt. Moosilauke was planned and carried out.”

Lawrence wrote that the College would be looking into changes to its policies and practices regarding outdoor programs. She added that the College would pay for the state’s large rescue operation.

According to NHFG colonel Kevin Jordan, the agency is currently investigating the incident to determine if the College is liable under New Hampshire law. 

“It’s concerning to me if this was preventable, and I think it was,” he said.

If the agency determines that the trip was conducted negligently, the College will be expected to reimburse the state for the cost of the rescue, according to Jordan. Jordan estimates that the agency spent several thousand dollars over the course of the three-day search. The cost mostly came from the use of helicopters and the transportation and maintenance of NHFG employees on-site, according to Jordan. 

Jordan added that College provost Joseph Helble had already reached out to the agency to express thanks and to offer to pay the cost of the rescue operation.

“It’s a little unique for them to be reaching out to me first,” he said. “It’s refreshing, to be honest.”

Jordan said the investigation is ongoing and will be submitted to New Hampshire attorney general Gordon MacDonald ’83 for review soon.

The OPO trip was part of a introductory hiking and camping class for physical education credit named “Hiking Overnight,” according to the OPO’s website. The trip was led and organized by OPO assistant director for leadership and experiential education Tracie Williams ’05. In her current role, Williams primarily works in student outreach and organizes the Dartmouth Outing Club’s PE classes. Williams declined to comment on the incident. 

While on the trip, Anand departed from the rest of the hiking group ascending Mt. Moosilauke because he felt he did not have adequate clothing and equipment on May 11, according to NHFG sergeant Tom Dakai. Anand told Dakai that he was instructed by a group leader to return to the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge on his own. He left the trail on the way back to the Lodge and became lost. 

When Anand did not reach the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge that evening, individuals at the lodge notified Fish and Game of the emergency, according to Dakai. 

Conservation officers from NHFG were called to conduct an overnight search, which was aided by volunteers from Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue, New England K-9 Search and Rescue and the Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team.

On May 12, volunteers conducted a more thorough search of the area where Anand was last seen. Several Dartmouth students and the Lakes Region Search and Rescue Team joined the ground search, forming a revolving team of over 50 volunteers, according to Dakai. An Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter and a Dartmouth-Hitchcock Air Response Team helicopter were also called in to assist in the search. The search was called off that night and resumed the following day.

Although Anand was found on the morning of May 13, Dakai said that with the combination of freezing conditions and the period of time that Anand had been lost, rescuers did not think that Anand would be found alive.

“I was losing hope,” Dakai said, “I was personally surprised that we found him.” 

According to Dakai, Anand had found the trail himself and was walking back to the lodge when he was found was rescuers. He was traveling without shoes and suffering from exposure. After volunteers helped him down the mountain, he was admitted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.