SALAMANCA, N.Y. (WIVB) - The search continues for a retired Methodist pastor who's been missing since last week in the wooded wilderness of the southern tier. The mystery is shrouded in the vast stretches of Allegany State Park.
So far, nearly 6 square miles have been thoroughly searched. That is like 5,000 football fields of woods. For much of that search area, volunteers could nearly reach out and touch the next volunteer. For the rest of the search area, they were within ten or 15 feet of each other. This search effort is slowly shrinking now, but the mystery grows by the day.
NYS Forest Rangers will staff the summit off all night, but there are no overnight patrols on the trails anymore. On Monday, 92 searchers combed the woods, including ROTC cadets from St. Bonaventure University who have trained in Allegany State Park before.
92-year-old retired pastor Thomas Hamilton has been missing since Wednesday when his 66-year-old daughter says the two went hiking and got turned around. She says he was too weak to continue the next morning so she walked to get help. It's a strange case. Police continue to interview Hamilton's daughter and say they always closely scrutinize the story in any missing person's case.
Major Christopher Cummings of the NYS Police said, "Absolutely. When the report first came in, we called our Bureau of Criminal Investigation in and conducted interviews with family members and obviously the daughter that was out for the walk with Mr. Hamilton. And at this point, certainly there is nothing more to this that we can determine other than two people went for a walk on a nice, sunny day, got disoriented, lost, and then due to Mr. Hamilton's weakness, had to separate to try and find help."
Early on, Hamilton's daughter drew a map of a painted concrete structure she remembers seeing in the woods. Police went public with it on Sunday, hoping that someone could lead them to it.
Sgt. Clyde Doty of the NYS Parks Police said, "We received an enormous amount of phone calls in response to that drawing."
Searchers have even brought back pictures of stone structures in the woods, but none match what the daughter is describing. Monday night will be the sixth night in a row for Thomas Hamilton. On Tuesday at sunrise, more volunteer firefighters will assemble again to assist NYS Forest Rangers in day six of the search.
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