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Search has had more than 1,000 volunteers

March 17, 2012
By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

PIERCEFIELD - More than 1,000 volunteers have contributed so far to the search for missing Tupper Lake teenager Colin Gillis.

State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Ranger Capt. John Streiff said Friday the people who have been signing volunteers in went through their records to find out how many volunteers have searched, some for multiple days.

They also calculated that that means 10,000 hours have been spent by volunteers searching the woods.

Article Photos

Colin Gillis
(Photo provided)

That's just the people searching. It doesn't include all the other people who have helped out by cooking or donating food, organizing volunteers, or emergency personnel who have participated in the effort.

Gillis, 18, had just returned home on spring break from SUNY Brockport when he went missing after leaving a party on foot early Sunday morning. It's believed he was last seen on the side of the road near the line between Franklin and St. Lawrence counties, where Tupper Lake and Piercefield meet. Family searched for him Sunday, then an all-out search began with DEC and state police and a horde of volunteers Monday morning.

On Friday, friends and family searched the woods with forest rangers.

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Colin Gillis is described as a white male, 6 feet, 1 inch tall, weighing about 170 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes. State police said he was last seen wearing a white shirt with black stripes, blue jeans and red sneakers.

Anyone with information is asked to call state police's Ray Brook headquarters at 518-897-2000.

"It's a little quieter day, which we had planned on," Streiff said.

A call Friday for volunteers to search on Saturday was called off later Friday afternoon. DEC plans to continue using only friends and family over the weekend.

In addition to some searches of the woods, the focus has been on water searches, with state police and DEC searchers working both above and below Piercefield Dam. Police are using specialized equipment that uses sonar to take a photo of what's in the water, said state police Capt. John Tibbits.

"You can look at it and tell exactly what you're looking at," Tibbits said.

Streiff said they were able to determine with a high percentage of certainty that Gillis was not in much of the water they searched.

The water above Piercefield Dam is relatively still, but below the dam, the Raquette River flows more quickly. Streiff said the situation with water searches there is changeable: Though searchers can be sure there's nothing in the water one day, that might not be the case the next day.

Despite all of Friday's search efforts, searchers didn't turn up any clues as to Gillis' whereabouts for the fourth day.

The search will continue through the weekend. Streiff said it will expand farther up state Route 3 to Gull Pond and on toward Conifer.

Since the weather was supposed to be clear and warm Saturday, state police were planning to fly over most of the waterways in helicopters, which they weren't able to use Friday due to rain and clouds.



Friday was the first day Colin's father John Gillis went into the woods for a search. He had plenty of friends and family with him in case he found something, said wife Patty Gillis, who stayed at the command post at the Piercefield Town Hall.

Meanwhile, their oldest son, Lyndon, a 21-year-old who lives in Utica but came home as soon as he heard his brother was missing, stayed home to get some rest. Until Friday, he spent almost the whole week searching the woods, but he hadn't been getting enough rest.

"None of us are," Patty said. "Today we told him go home, go to bed, get some sleep. Come back in a day. We've got it all covered."

Her youngest son, Ian Gillis, is acting in this weekend's Tupper Lake High School musical, "Cinderella: An Enchanted Edition." Patty said Friday afternoon that she plans to attend the show, but she's not sure when. She wants to be discreet about it and slip in and out without too many people noticing.

"I don't want to be a distraction," Patty said.

She and the rest of the family has talked every day with her son's friends, trying to figure out what happened at the party he attended last Saturday night.

They are also out looking for him, but they also took Friday off to rest. Many of them are home now on spring break as well.

"They're exhausted," Patty said. "They're all taking a break today to recoup - you know, emotionally and physically, everything. They're still calling each other, bouncing ideas off of each other, trying to figure out where Colin is and what happened. We're talking to them every day."

Patty said the family is keeping their hopes up.

"We're still optimistic, and we're going to work through the weekend and see what we can find," she said.


Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or



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