Search for missing student continues
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 12:05
The search for College at Brockport student Colin Gillis spanned an estimated 11,000 acres and continues to be led by a strong volunteer effort. The dedication to the search has helped inspire a state bill that would help prevent similar incidents in the future.
The 18-year-old pre-med student went missing when he was visiting his hometown of Tupper Lake, N.Y. during spring break.
He was reportedly last seen after leaving a social gathering the night of Saturday, March 10, or during the early morning hours of Sunday, March 11. He was also reportedly seen walking along State Route 3 heading toward Piercefield, according to statements issued by the state Department of Environmental Conversation (DEC).
An extensive search by the DEC crews and state police thoroughly covered the area around where Gilllis was last seen.
The search was downgraded to a "limited continuous" status, but family and friends have continued an ongoing effort.
Messages of hope continue to fill the "Bring Colin Gillis Home" Facebook page, and the community has had no trouble in raising financial support for the search, including a comedy show fundraiser held Friday, April 28 in Tupper Lake.
The Gillis family has also organized a $10,000 reward for those involved in Colin’s safe return, according to an article in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. In an April 24 letter to the editor of Enterprise, the Gillis family thanked the community for its support.
"Every person at the table said it was the search they would have wanted for their own child," the letter states. "Having so many volunteers the first day made the rangers and troopers bring in more resources for the next day, and that build-up continued throughout the week. It was you volunteers that made this happen."
The letter also emphasized the incredible effort put forth by the DEC forest rangers, and the importance of local volunteers who worked tirelessly, totaling more than 10,000 hours of searching.
John Gillis, Colin's father, wrote a post on his Facebook page, April 6, thanking those who've helped in the search, stating it has spanned 37 miles of woods and roads that encompass roughly 11,000 acres of forest.
John also emphasized, in another post from April 4, how this search has helped the community develop a better response to similar emergencies.
"One of the things we've been discussing is just how much we're learning from this process of searching and recording," John wrote. "And how this effort now can be used as a template by other communities in the future."
The support has been so immense it has helped inspire an approved bill which would have state forest rangers train more volunteers to help with search-and-rescue operations.
"For me personally, I see a real urgency in this bill becoming a law this year," stated the bill's sponsor, Sen. Betty Little in a prepared statement to The Stylus. "I was in Tupper Lake during the search for Colin. The outpouring of support and hundreds of people wanting to help was truly inspiring. In times of crisis, we see the best in humanity.”
Those with any information regarding the case should contact state police at (518) 897-2000.