Sad end to search for Seward hunter
By Patsy Nicosia
After hundreds of man-hours and a search that began last Wednesday, volunteers located the body of missing Town of Seward hunter Carl Weaver at about 1:53pm yesterday, Tuesday, December 19.
Mr. Weaver’s body was found in a brush-covered area less than a mile from the road; police said late last night that a path had to be cleared with chainsaws to reach him.
Police said there no signs of struggle or injury and Mr. Weaver still had his gun.
The cause of death is pending a coroner’s report.
The search for Mr. Weaver involved a total of 737 searchers.
This is the story of what happened Monday, the last full day of searching.
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“This is the day we’re going to find Carl.”
With those words, Forest Ranger Steve Preston sent more than 100 search and rescue volunteers from as far away as the Adirondack High Peaks back out into the woods Monday to look for 77-year-old Carl Weaver of Seward, a hunter missing for nine days.
“I have a good feeling today,” Lieutenant Preston said before the day’s briefing at the Jefferson Fire House--though he said he’d had a good feeling Friday too.
“But that’s the attitude we go out there with every day: That we’re going to find him alive.”
Mr. Weaver was last seen Sunday, December 10, at the Cobleskill McDonald’s, where he told a friend and neighbor that he was going hunting.
Police began searching for Mr. Weaver last Tuesday, after the same neighbor noticed he’d never come home; a logger discovered his truck, blanketed in snow, the next day at the intersection of Titus Hill Road and South Worcester Road, just over the Jefferson line in Delaware County.
It was a spot Mr. Weaver hunted and knew well, Lieutenant Preston said, but the terrain is challenging and filled with swamps and cliffs.
Before volunteers had headed out Monday, Lieutenant Preston said they’d searched 2,000 acres, even going beyond natural boundaries—streams, roads, gas pipelines---that someone who knows how to read the woods would have used to find their way back.
That day, they were going to re-search the area near where Mr. Weaver’s truck had been found, Forest Ranger Jason Seeley told volunteers as they readied to board Jefferson Central School busses to ride to the site.
“There’s a good chance we missed something because of the snow. I want everyone to be slow and methodical,” he said.
Since Mr. Weaver disappeared, night temperatures have been in the single digits.
But both Lieutenant Preston and Jefferson Fire Chief Bill Bivona said it’s the snow that’s making searching especially difficult.
“It covers up everything,” Chief Bivona said. “Even things like downed trees…And it makes the going difficult.”
Already, a half-dozen forest rangers and volunteers had suffered injuries, many from falling.
Friday, nearly 100 volunteers turned out to search the woods; Sunday those numbers swelled to twice that.
Drones and State Police K-9 teams have also been used in the search.
“We’re so grateful for everyone who’s turned out to help,” Chief Bivona said.
Though no civilians have been used in the search, they’re helping in other ways, he said.
Neighbors have stopped by with cake and cookies, the Salvation Army has been at the fire house cooking breakfast non-stop, and Monday, the Middleburgh FD’s Ladies Auxiliary had promised a roast beef dinner.
Chief Bivona also sent out a special thanks to Verizon Oneonta.
Because there’s no cell service in Jefferson, volunteers needed a repeater to boost communication; an employee met him halfway, Chief Bivona said, and then help install the device.
In addition to working against the weather, the volunteers are working against daylight.
Lieutenant Preston said they try to get crews up in the field by 8am and they typically start arriving back at the firehouse about 4:30pm; they lunch on MRE’s in the field and catch sleep where they can.
Each of the past five days has begun with a series of briefings; Monday some of the weary searchers closed their eyes for catnaps while waiting for the first briefing.
Lieutenant Preston said the search for Mr. Weaver—or signs that he’s been there: things like candy wrappers or other litter--will continue until they’ve exhausted all possibilities.
“We’re going out there to find Carl.”