Social Media Searchers: Did Brett Olson Make It Off Beer Can Beach?

"Boots on the Ground" search crews have found no trace of Brett Olson, and are prepared to continue searching at least until Sunday, but Facebook posts suggest the 20-year-old may have left the party haul-out where he was last seen.


Sheriff's department search teams continue to pick through the dense scrub and murky waters of the Sacramento River where Brett Olson of Lafayette was last seen Sunday -- but hundreds of his friends, asked not to join the search effort out of fear they would be lost themselves, are turning to their computers to search for him instead.

Since the , friends and family have been poring over hundreds of photos posted of the riverbank party known as the Chico Float, hoping to find a glimpse of the missing man. So far,  no trace of the popular Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student has been found, though tantalizing reports continue to surface as the Internet search for him widens.

“It was a long day, a lot of things happened,” friend Michael Bissell told a reporter for The Orion, the Chico State university newspaper. "We were drinking, so it’s hard to put everything together. It just went by way too fast.”

Olson, Bissell, Cal Poly friend Colin Nickel and a small party of acquaintances from UCLA who they "roped in" for the float, joined thousands of revelers in the traditional floating party down the Sacramento on Sunday, "hauling out" at a landmark gravel shingle to mingle and party.

“I floated with him all the way down to Beer Can Beach,” Bissell told The Orion. “I went to dock the float somewhere and he was gone.”

Friends thought they would be seeing Olson at their weekend "base," a friend's house in Chico, but the last time any of them saw him was around 1 p.m. A woman, posting on the Facebook page created to help find him, reported that she was with Olson until about 4 p.m., when they were again separated by the crowd. She said he was "completely coherent," but that she did not see him again. Fights and scuffles were reported -- and recorded -- on Beer Can Beach that day.

In the week since, tantalizing sightings have been posted via Facebook and Twitter, including recent posts which put Olson back in Chico the day after the float, in one instance walking out of a local home, and in another supposedly agitated and distressed outside of a liquor store at Highway 32 and Meir.

Based on the sightings and expressed wish by the sheriff's department that no volunteer searchers join the river party searching for Olson, dozens of friends and family joined Friday to saturate the neighborhood of 12th and Hazel in Chico, where many believe Olson was seen the day after the float. Groups of searchers vow to go door to door, handing out fliers and attempting to find something that could lead them to Olson's recovery.

Despite the sightings, a $5,000 reward for information leading to his return, a "Let's Bring Brett Home" social media site -- now with more than 80,000 members and the attention of celebrity social media users -- searchers using cadaver dogs and heat sensing imaging equipment continue their patient search of the river where Brett Olson was last seen.

Glenn County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Collins said Thursday that they have heard of the sightings posted to the web site and others, but that they are concentrating their search along the Sacramento between River Road and an area north of Beer Can Beach.

"We're prepared to go through the weekend," he said. "We're not giving up."

Patch Note: Friends of the Olson family and those wishing to show their support for the family are gathering tonight, Friday, at Casa Gourmet Burrito, 3322 Mt. Diablo Road, at 7 p.m. Organizers hope to raise money to help defray the family's expenses while searching for their son.

Nicholas September 07, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Where's his cell phone??? Do they have it?
Ian Lipnicky (still a SportsFan) September 07, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Didn't an earlier report say that he didn't have it with him? That would make sense if you were floating down the river. I've managed to drop mine in a rain puddle at the BART station, so I know I'd lose it in a river for sure.
Danna Wright September 08, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Update: The reward is now $10,000. Although many in Lamorinda already know, there's a continuing effort to spread awareness, far and wide, in order to leave no stone unturned. Thank you, J.D. and Patch. This is today's need for volunteers, per Shane Wright, one of the volunteer organizers: WE WANT AS MANY PEOPLE POSSIBLE TO MEET AT THE STARBUCKS AT 246 BROADWAY STREET IN DOWNTOWN CHICO AT 10 AM. IF YOU WERE THINKING OF COMING UP TO HELP, WE CAN USE ALL THE HELP WE CAN GET. We will be organizing groups to cover different sections of the farmers market, spreading awareness and fliers. The fliers we will have available will be updated with the $10,000 dollar reward. We believe this added motivation will cause a lot more pro-activity among the Chico Locals. THEN WE WILL HAVE A SECOND MEETING AT 1:00pm AT THE SAME STARBUCKS. IF YOU CANNOT MAKE IT BY 10, PLEASE MAKE IT UP BY 1. At the second meeting we will organize activities for the rest of the day. Again, the Olson family cannot express how thankful they are for the massive support. Keep the love flowing!
Danna Wright September 08, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Brett did not have his phone with him.
Hopeful friend September 08, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Has anyone checked "Bear Hole" ? It is a popular place for students to go and hang out swim.... There r caves and underwater swimming tunnels. Sometimes students like to hike up the area ...bear hole to salmon hole etc..... I went to Chico state and I used to go there all the time. Perhaps some people can search that area. You would need to search the area on foot.
bryan September 08, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Obviously..... perhaps Nicholas meant did they retrieve it from where he left it prior to leaving for the river? I wondered the same thing... any activity on it, contacts, etc.
Meredith Wheeler September 09, 2012 at 07:31 AM
The reward has been increased to $50,000--not that money is motivating most of the searchers.....
Danna Wright September 09, 2012 at 11:36 AM
Thank you Meredith. Just logged on to update again, and see you've already done it. They still need people to help in Chico. In yesterday's efforts, they came across many who hadn't heard of Brett.
Danna Wright September 09, 2012 at 11:53 AM
Update: The reward is now $50,000 and they need help in Chico still. This is today's (Sunday 9/9/12) announcement: ATTENTION EVERYONE IN CHICO: Today's search is going to be completely revolved around the lead Jason Conrad gave us. WE ARE GOING TO CHANGE THE LOCATION OF OUR MEETING TO AT SAFEWAY ON 1016 WEST SACRAMENTO AVENUE (next to walgreens, corner of nord and west sac) AT 10:00am SO WE ARE CENTRAL TO THE LOCATION BRETT WAS LAST SPOTTED. WE ARE WORKING SIDE BY SIDE WITH THE POLICE, SO OUR SEARCH WILL BE EXTREMELY ORGANIZED AND EFFICIENT. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT EVERYONE SHOWS UP TO OUR EVENT AT 10:00am INSTEAD OF SEARCHING ON THEIR OWN. OUR DIRECTION AND LEADERSHIP WILL VASTLY IMPROVE CHANCES OF FINDING BRETT. If you have been a leader in our previous volunteer searches, expect a call in the morning, and prepare to come early. Thank you all, and keep the prayers and positivity flowing! http://www.facebook.com/events/113674542116042/?context=create
K. Allen September 09, 2012 at 04:03 PM
My heart goes out to the Olson family. My son, Patrick, was best friends with Brett in elementary school and while we were neighbors on Hawthorn Dr. We are all praying for his safe return, and cannot imagine the agony and pain of not knowing. Love from the Allen family (Kate, Patrick, Kieran, Mairead and Des, RIP 7/26/12)
J.D. O'Connor (Editor) September 09, 2012 at 04:19 PM
@Nicholas -- we have been assured Brett's cell phone has been recovered and contains nothing that would lead searchers to him.
Nicholas September 09, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Thanks. Not trying to be mister detective here b ut this is turning into something and I'm not much older than him and I'm trying to figure this out. What about his car? I mean, without his wallet -- which I assume he did not carry with him on the float but which he may have left in the transport car or his car whatever -- and his cell phone he's not going very far. Question: did he like most floaters leave his wallet, cell in the car they used to get to the river. Were they still there? And where's his car? There are some details here that would be good to address IMO.
Tim Davis September 09, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Yes... where is his car?


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »