Alaska News

Kodiak holds out hope as search for missing 7-year-old continues

A committed corps of local volunteers kept up the search Wednesday for Sawyer Cipolla, the 7-year-old boy missing in Kodiak since he disappeared from his home Saturday.

Searchers returned to the Bayside Volunteer Fire Department station in Kodiak on Wednesday to start a new day of combing trails, thick brush and steep terrain for Cipolla. The boy is on the autism spectrum, authorities say, and doesn’t respond to his name when called.

There have been no new leads in the search for the boy since he went missing, organizers say.

Hundreds of people, civilians as well as a wide range of agencies from Kodiak, Anchorage and Mat-Su, are combing an area that spans about 15 square miles.

Members of the community are helping out any way they can, search organizers say.

Overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, volunteers who were instructed to report anything they see or hear began taking two-hour “containment watch” shifts between midnight and 6 a.m., according to Aimee Williams, who is handling public outreach for the search effort.

Despite a lack of clues about the boy’s whereabouts, hopes are still high that he will be found, Williams said, adding that incident commander Aaron Griffin rallies the searchers every day with speeches that move people to tears.

“When we go out, we are very much looking to find an alive Sawyer,” she said Wednesday. “Everyone remains very hopeful and positive.”

Police in Kodiak issued an alert about an hour after Cipolla disappeared midday Saturday. It said he was “last seen wearing (a) blue/red sweater” and was carrying a toy wooden sword.

The boy does not respond to his name but does respond to howling and the phrases “come on in” and “brigadier,” according to a missing persons poster being circulated. It says if someone says “Marco,” he may answer “Polo.”

As many as 950 people turned out Sunday to look for Cipolla, Alaska State Troopers said. The search continued Monday with more than 400 participants including ground searchers, multiple dog teams and people using aircraft, thermal drones and boats.

On Tuesday, search dogs and “multiple air assets” including Coast Guard, Alaska Army National Guard and Deckload Aviation helicopters continued to fly an expanded search area while more than 300 ground searchers moved through targeted areas, troopers said.

Dog teams involved in the first days of the search flew out Tuesday, replaced by fresh teams Wednesday.

Community members who wanted to help search Wednesday were already gathering outside the fire station before a noon briefing even began, Williams said. About 150 people had turned out Wednesday afternoon, though those numbers were expected to grow as people got off work for the day.

Jobs and fatigue are reducing search numbers somewhat, but locals remain dogged, determined and optimistic, she said. “It’s still an impressive amount.”

Anyone with information about Cipolla is asked to contact troopers in Kodiak by calling 907-486-4121.

Zaz Hollander

Longtime ADN reporter Zaz Hollander is based in the Mat-Su and is currently focused on coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska. She also covers the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at zhollander@adn.com.

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