LAKE PLACID - After eight days, an intense search for 22-year-old Wesley Wamsganz has been scaled back.
On Sunday night, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which led the effort in the state-owned High Peaks Wilderness, shifted the status of its search to "limited continuous." That means the end of the manhunt's active portion, which involved dozens of forest rangers, police officers and volunteers. These officials will mostly resume their regular duties and look for Wamsganz when they have time and when new leads emerge.
The Lake Placid Police Department and state police Bureau of Criminal Investigation will continue to investigate the missing-person case and welcome leads from the public. You can call Lake Placid police at 518-523-3306 or state police at 518-897-2000. Sunday night will be the ninth since he went missing.
(Photo courtesy of Siena Wamsganz)
Wamsganz, of Saranac Lake, hasn't been seen since last Saturday evening, Nov. 20, when several hikers spotted him in the High Peaks from the trailhead to Marcy Dam. He didn't have any food, water or outdoor gear, as far as searchers and his family know.
Forest ranger Capt. John Streiff said Sunday night that he, along with members of the state police and Lake Placid village police, had just notified Wamsganz's family members of the search change. Family members had been waiting for news at the Adirondack Mountain Club's Adirondak Loj property, which served as the search's command post.
"We explained to them what we've done," Streiff said. That included showing the family maps showing the areas that have been searched. These stretch out as far south and west as Tahawus and Duck Hole roughly 12 miles by trail from the trailhead where Wamsganz apparently entered the woods.
HAVE YOU SEEN WESLEY WAMSGANZ?
If so, call Lake Placid police at 518-523-3306 or state police at 518-897-2197.
Height: 6 feet 3 inches tall
Weight: about 180 pounds
Hair: blond, buzzed short
Build: thin, muscular
Wearing: black Bob Marley zip-up hoodie, jeans or tan Carhartt pants, hiking shoes and a yellow, red and green striped, brimmed winter beanie
"We've covered the trail systems of the High Peaks Wilderness, we've covered all the lean-tos in the High Peaks Wilderness, and we've done type 2 grid searches," Streiff said. In the grid search, people line up 3 to 4 feet apart from each other and comb areas designated on a grid map.
"We're running out of places to safely search," Streiff said.
Several hikers saw a man matching Wamsganz's description last Saturday evening in the High Peaks. The last place he was reported seen is Marcy Dam, about 2 miles in.
The most intensive searching was done between Marcy Dam and Lake Colden. In the middle of that corridor, Wamsganz's green Carhartt jacket was found last Sunday. That jacket is still the only clue searchers have found.
Besides his jacket, Wamsganz was wearing only a hooded sweatshirt, pants, hiking shoes and a beanie hat. Over the nights since he left, low temperatures in Lake Placid have ranged from 7 to 34 degrees, according to weather.com - and it's colder than that at higher elevations.
Dogs were used as well as people, but a helicopter could only be fully used on Thanksgiving Day. High winds kept it out of the High Peaks all day Saturday and almost all of Sunday.
"The weather has not been that conducive to aerial searching," Streiff said.
Wamsganz set out on foot for the wilderness last Saturday after he finished his shift at the Downtown Diner in Lake Placid, where he is a dishwasher and prep cook. Lake Placid police saw him on his way out of town, and he apparently walked to the trailhead more than 10 miles.
His family reported him missing Sunday after he didn't come home or show up to work.
No tips police received have led them to redirect the search anywhere other than the High Peaks.
Contact Peter Crowley at 518-891-2600 ext. 22 or firstname.lastname@example.org.