TUPPER LAKE - The search for missing 18-year-old Colin Gillis was downgraded Monday, a week after police, forest rangers and more than 1,000 volunteers started looking for him.
"All reasonable efforts have been made to search all probable areas where Mr. Gillis may have been located," state Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman David Winchell wrote in an email. "Other than a couple of personal items located Monday, March 12, along state Route 3, no signs of Mr. Gillis have been found."
The search is now in "limited continuous" status, which means DEC forest rangers, search-and-rescue teams and others will conduct spot searches and training exercises in the area, and helicopters will do periodic flyovers of the land and waters in the area.
State police will continue to investigate Gillis' whereabouts.
Gillis, a Tupper Laker who had just returned home on spring break from the State University of New York at Brockport, went missing after leaving a party on foot last weekend. He is believed to have last been seen at about 1:45 a.m. Sunday, March 11, on Route 3 near the line between Franklin and St. Lawrence counties, where Tupper Lake meets Piercefield, by three motorists heading toward Piercefield.
State and local emergency officials, assisted by hundreds of volunteers from the community, spent seven days searching more than 2,000 acres of land, miles of the Raquette River and both Raquette Pond and Piercefield Flow. Community volunteers alone spent about 10,000 hours actively searching for Gillis.
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.
Other search participants included 25 DEC forest rangers and DEC operations staff; New York State Police investigators, troopers, Aviation Unit, Special Response Operations Team, dive team and K-9 units; Office of Fire Prevention and Control; Tupper Lake Police Department; Tupper Lake Volunteer Fire Department and Dive Team; Piercefield Fire Department; Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks; Lower Adirondacks Search and Rescue; Champlain Valley K-9; and U.S. Army helicopters from Fort Drum.
Gillis' brother, Lyndon, a 21-year-old who lives in Utica but came home last weekend to help look for his brother, posted a message about the end of the search on a Facebook page he created to communicate with friends, family and others about his missing brother, called "Bring Colin Gillis Home."
"The search parties have stopped, yes," Lyndon Gillis wrote. "But the search for Colin will never stop until he is found."
He asked people to continue to be positive about the situation, and he encouraged a movement started by the Tupper Lake Moose Club for people to keep their porch lights on to light his brother's way home.
"Thank you again for everyone who has helped," he wrote. "Leave your lights on. He'll see them through the dark and make his way home!"
As the search came to a close Monday, Colin Gillis' classmates at SUNY Brockport returned to college from their spring break. College spokesman John Follaco told the Enterprise the school's administration has been keeping its students up to date on the search since last Monday through emails and social media like Facebook and Twitter.
A few of the local television stations were there Monday afternoon to talk to other students who live in Gillis' dorm, Thompson Hall, Follaco said in a phone interview.
"There's just a couple hundred kids in his residence hall, and everyone knows everybody," Follaco said. "The few that I've spoken to over the last couple of days just have nothing but nice things to say about him. He had a lot of friends."
He said the situation has been hitting close to home for many students, and the college is making sure they know they can get help from the campus counseling center.
Follaco said state police have been in touch with university police. They've told students to help out if they have any information that could help with the investigation. Staff also checked Gillis' room over the break, and they've been monitoring his college ID for use, since it has to be swiped to get into buildings on campus. It still hasn't been swiped since he left for break Friday, March 9.
Moment of silence
Back in Tupper Lake, village Mayor Paul Maroun started the village board meeting Monday night with a moment of silence for Colin Gillis and his family, with "hope that somehow he can be found safe and unharmed."
Maroun, village fire Commissioner Rick Donah and several others thanked fire volunteers, village employees and everyone else who helped out with the search.
Maroun said he knows everyone will keep their eyes peeled and keep notifying their friends from other areas to keep an eye out for Gillis.