The search for the remains of a 92-year-old man is seemingly coming to an end after a year and a half.
At approximately 12:40 p.m. Tuesday, a local hiker reported to the New York State Park Police that he had found what he believed to be human remains. The remains were located near the Art Roscoe Cross Country Ski Trails in the Red House area of Allegany State Park, which is near where the Rev. Thomas Hamilton was reported missing a year-and-a-half ago.
The state park police, along with the New York State Police and the state forest rangers held a news conference on Wednesday afternoon to address the discovery.
Maj. Scott Ritchie of the NYS Park Police fields questions about the Tuesday discovery of human remains in Allegany State Park.
P-J photo by Ryan Atkins
Hamilton, who was 92 years old at the time that he went missing, had gone hiking on Nov. 10, 2010, with his 66-year-old daughter, Rebecca Huffman. The two had reportedly spent the night in the park after straying from the ski trail near the Red House area and became disoriented in the dark. According to police reports, at the time Huffman said that her father was too weak to continue hiking, so she began to hike back to the Summit lot, where they had parked, in order to get help for him.
Once she made it back to the vehicle, she was unable to lead searchers to where she had left her father. The original search lasted eight days after Hamilton was reported missing before weather and other factors made it difficult to continue. Since the end of the original search, other searchers in training exercises have continued to comb through what are thought to be the most likely areas for the body to be found.
According to police, clothing, jewelry and a walking stick were also found near the remains that matched the descriptions given to police more than a year ago. Huffman has also been notified, and indicated that the watch that was found was similar to the one that her father had been wearing when he went missing.
Police are confident, but not 100 percent sure, that the remains belong to Hamilton since they are still waiting for results from the autopsy.
"With the original search, we used several advanced techniques including aviation and helicopter surveillance," said Capt. Daniel Richter of the NYS Forest Rangers. "The area that the remains were found in, however, was 1.9 miles away from the original high-probability search area. The terrain was covered with heavy downed timber, huge trees, debris, and leaf litter from the several windstorms that have gone through the area since he was reported missing."
According to Maj. Scott Ritchie of the NYS Park Police, there are around 400 campsites and 400 cabins at Allegany State Park and thousands of people get lost every year, but most are recovered very quickly.
"I can only think of two people with an extensive search of this length in the past 20 years that I've been here," he said. "We covered almost 6,000 acres of park, almost 20 percent of the park was searched. At the end of that we classified it as a limited continuation search. What that means is that we would have search groups do training exercises in the park and conduct their own searches during those times. We probably had around a dozen of those extra searches over a year and a half."
At this point in the investigation, police have no reason to suspect foul play was involved.
In order to avoid situations like this in the future, the police offered several suggestions to future hikers. They recommend that everyone has a hike plan and, if possible, a cellphone to carry with them. Hikers should also let others know where they are going and instruct those people to call the authorities if they don't return when they are supposed to.