TROY, N.Y. - More than two months after an 82-year-old hunter vanished in upstate New York, the state downgraded its search-and-rescue efforts Thursday.
Thomas Messick, of Troy, N.Y., was last seen on Nov. 15 wearing a camouflage jacket, coveralls and a red & black plaid hat.
A hunting party reported the 5-foot-10 man missing the next afternoon when he failed to rendezvous with them in the Lake George Wild Forest, near Lily Pond, in Horicon, N.Y.
Forest rangers took up the search on foot first, soon joined helicopters and hundreds of volunteers, but there still has been no trace of Messick, as the warmest year on record finally gives way to more seasonal conditions.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation notes that the grid search for Messick covered more than 11 square miles of land, nearly 3 square miles were grid-searched twice.
"Additionally 269 miles of linear searches and 156 miles of K-9 searches were conducted," the department said Thursday. "Nearly four miles were searched by boat and 16 miles were searched by ATV. The state police aviation unit helicopter searched thousands of acres with forest rangers on board as spotters, and divers from the state police dive team also searched Lily Pond."
Assisting forest rangers were New York's Environmental Conservation Police, State Police, several other state and county agencies, plus hundreds of volunteers from search-and-rescue teams and fire departments.
Messick's friends and family joined in, as did "volunteer searchers from as far away as West Virginia, logging a total of more than 10,000 searcher hours.
Saying the team made "all reasonable efforts to search all probable areas where the 82-year-old hunter may have been located," forest rangers downgraded the search Thursday.
"Under the limited continuous search, local Forest Rangers and search and rescue teams will conduct spot searches and training exercises in the search area and nearby areas," according to a statement. "State police aviation helicopters and forest rangers will also periodically search the lands and waters in and around the search area. State police will keep an active missing person case and will investigate any and all information relevant to the whereabouts of Mr. Messick."
Any leads or evidence of Messick's whereabouts will trigger an active-search upgrade.
Forest rangers can be reached at 518.897.1300.
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