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Missing Montana hiker believed to have died in accident

| July 13, 2021 7:00 AM

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Searchers looking for a Montana State University graduate student who disappeared while hiking in the Beartooth Mountains in southern Montana say they do not believe she is still alive.

Red Lodge Fire Rescue said in a statement Saturday evening that after nearly a week of intense search efforts, it's unlikely Tatum Morell, 23, survived, The Billings Gazette reported.

"It is believed that Tatum had a tragic accident and was unable to activate her inReach device," the statement read, referring to the woman's satellite communicator.

In a video statement, Morrell's family said, "Tate was a fiercely independent, adventurous soul who loved the mountains. We find some solace in knowing she passed in a place she loved." The family statement included the woman's brother Josh, and their parents, Kathy and Matt Morell.

Tatum Morell contacted her mother in Ketchum, Idaho, with the satellite device July 1 but hasn't been heard from since. Garmin inReach, the satellite device company, has been unable to get a signal from the unit, officials said.

Morell is an experienced hiker and had planned to trek to the top of five mountain peaks above 12,000 feet (3,658 meters) in elevation in the area north of Yellowstone National Park. She was expected to return from her hike July 5.

Searchers found Morell's tent in the Shadow Lake area at an elevation of about 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), but there was no sign of Morell other than items she left in the tent.

Authorities said limited searches are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.