Firefighters assist in search for missing Worthington man
Click here to see the gallery of pictures taken throughout the day.
WORTHINGTON - Friday night just before 9PM, a call for help was sent out by the Worthington Fire Department asking for resources to assist in the search for a missing person. The request from area fire departments was simple - they needed people and ATV’s. The following morning over 90 volunteers consisting of firefighters, family and friends of Bill Guidi, assembled in the Worthington Fire Station at 7AM on Saturday, May 3rd.
Bill Guidi, age 64, was reported missing earlier in the week by his landlord and roommate. Family members indicated that Mr. Guidi would sometimes ride his mountain bike in the area and that he was in excellent condition and was a competant and experienced outdoorsman.
Plans that had been established on Friday night were changed by Saturday morning. A search dog named Rhino from Coast to Coast K-9 was in the woods with his handler Fred and Acting Chief Gary Lefebvre at 5 a.m. Saturday morning. Rhino picked up an airborne scent in an ‘area of concern’ near a drywall bucket that was found approximately 10 minutes walk from the Westfield River. As a result, searchers were going to concentrate their efforts in this one particular half mile section on the southern end of West Street.
Worthington Fire Department Assistant Chief Mike Dondiego reviews highlights of a handout about Bill Guidi with searchers at the morning debrief.
At the morning briefing, Assistant Chief Mike Dondiego stressed the importance of accountability and personal safety. West Street resident Bill Guidi was reported missing late Sunday afternoon. Search efforts that had been conducted during the week concentrated in areas off of West Street at the intersection of Almond Johnson Road. A Northern command post was established at the intersection of West Street and Curtis Road while the Southern command post was established at the intersection of West Street and Almond Johnson Road. All terrain vehicles (ATV’s) searched numerous logging / snowmobile trails on land that is owned by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
Pictures of Guidi’s mountain bike, a Trek 9000 with dual suspension, purple frame, and yellow rear fork, were included on a briefing sheet that was distributed to team leaders.
Acting Police Chief Gary Lefebvre stressed the steepness of the search area which measures approximately one half mile by one mile long. The area, because of overnight rains, made the numerous boulders and rock outcroppings slippery. In addition, some areas just off West Street were ‘swampy’ which would contribute to a slow search. He asked anyone who had concerns about working in such an area to make their feelings known. None were made.
Fred, from Coast to Coast K-9, added that ‘we’re not in a race’.
A friend of Bill Guidi suggested that Mr. Guidi was known for wearing camouflage or brown colored clothing and that we shouldn’t be looking for someone in a blue or green coat.
After a meeting with team captains, searchers were then loaded onto a school bus and shuttled to the search area.
Members of the State Police spent the morning following up on a report that Mr. Guidi’s bike had been spotted further down on Route 112 earlier in the week. The neighborhood was canvassed and a purple bike was located. Unfortunately, it was not the bike that investigators were looking for. Earlier in the week, the State Police air wing sent up a helicopter equipped with an infrared heat source device to perform a low-level search of the area but did not see anything unusual. The State Police search will commence again on Monday morning with the canvassing of area homes. The plan is to knock on doors of nearby neighbors to interview them for possible clues in Mr. Guidi’s disappearance.
Worthington Fire Department Chief Rich Granger and Acting Worthington Police Chief Gary Lefebvre look over a map of the area while discussing strategies with team captains prior to the afternoon search.
The biggest challenge was not having a legitimate starting point. As a result, it was very difficult to target a place to begin the search. On Thursday, a team made up of 8 members of the State Police along with a several dog teams conducted a search to the north of the area of interest that was being explored today and found nothing.
Searchers located old tarps, a sleeping pad, a clandestine garden made up of nearly 30 2 ½ gallon sized plastic bags filled with potting soil and a watering can, stone cellar holes, numerous deflated mylar balloons, skeletal remains of what appeared to be a dog-sized animal and a moose along with numerous empty Ziploc and MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) bags.
One search area had been clear-cut within the past 10 years. This area was by far the thickest part of the search area. Thousands of tightly growing Beech and Birch saplings were competing for space on the forest floor. Searchers in this area could easily hear each other in spite of not being able to see themselves even though they were less than 50 feet apart.
The Worthington Fire Station was used as the Incident Command Post during the search. After a break for lunch, Worthington Fire Department Assistant Chief Mike Dondiego recaps the morning's events with a group of over 90 volunteers in one of the bays at station prior to the afternoon search.
The sound of rushing water from the Westfield River grew louder as searchers equipped with compasses and portable radios approached. The forest area went from patches of beech groves to hemlock groves. Cherry, pine, maple and ash trees were scattered in between. In some areas, the logging roads were deeply rutted from storm run off and were crisscrossed with fallen trees that had to be cut in order to make a path for the ATV’s.
When searchers reached the Westfield River, they re-grouped and headed north to a footbridge approximately ½ mile up stream where they were met by a bus that shuttled them back to the Worthington fire station.
The search for Bill Guidi was suspended at that point due to darkness.
An incident command structure was established as detailed below:
Incident Commander – Fire Chief Rich Granger (Worthington Fire Department)
Incident Command Post - Worthington Fire Station
Accountability Officer – Firefighter Dorrice Higgins (Worthington Fire Department)
Logistics Officer – Cathy Johnson (Worthington Emergency Management Director)
Southern Command – Acting Policy Chief Gary Lefebvre (Worthington Police Department)
Northern Command – Fire Chief Bernie Forgea (Cummington Fire Department)
K-9 Officer – Fred (from Coast to Coast K-9) with his dog Rhino
State Police Detective – Jaime McGary, Detective Unit, Northwestern District Attorney’s Office
Fire departments and other specialized units assisting in the search included:
Blandford – Sandra Roberts and her bloodhound Curry
Rescue and Search Dogs Northeast
New England Search and Rescue
Berkshire Mountain Search and Rescue
(Saturday, May 3, 2008)