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.