‘Humbling and awe-inspiring’: after huge community response, the search for Sawyer Cipolla enters new phase

The Alaska State Troopers are winding down their active search and rescue operation for 7-year-old Sawyer Cipolla – who went missing near his home in the Monashka Bay Road area of Kodiak on Sat., May 7. The change in strategy was announced at a Saturday morning media briefing held by the Alaska State Troopers on May 14. 

Alaska Wildlife Trooper Josh Boyle at a May 14, 2022 media briefing on the disappearance of 7-year-old Sawyer Cipolla. Searchers canvassed more than 10,000 acres of Kodiak Island looking for the boy. (Kirsten Dobroth, KMXT)

Law enforcement and professional search teams will now canvas areas where new evidence or information suggests that Cipolla may be located, according to Lt. Paul Fussey, the statewide coordinator for search and rescue for the Alaska State Troopers.

“The search for Sawyer is not over today,” said Fussey. “However, it will be taking a new shape.” 

The community-wide search for Cipolla, who is autistic, has also been suspended, according to the “Search for Sawyer” Facebook page, which was set up following Cipolla’s disappearance. 

Alaska Wildlife Trooper Josh Boyle is the incident commander for the search. He said Troopers believe the boy may have gone over a cliff and into the water based on searches by two K9 teams, who picked up Cipolla’s scent in steep terrain near his home.

“I’ll be the first to admit that’s an imperfect scenario, but it is possible,” said Boyle. “And based on all the measures taken and lack of any other evidence or clues on both the search and rescue and investigation sides of this search effort so far, it’s the most plausible explanation that we have.”

An extensive investigation led by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation has not uncovered any evidence of foul play, according to the Alaska State Troopers.

More than 2,500 volunteers canvassed 10,000 acres across the island looking for Cipolla in the days following his disappearance, according to the Alaska State Troopers. The search effort also included members of local law enforcement, Kodiak Island Search and Rescue, Coast Guard Base Kodiak, and local pilots. Sixty U.S. Navy Seals and 14 K9 teams from across the state also assisted in the search.

Sawyer Cipolla is 7-years-old and was last seen near his home on Forest Drive on May 7, 2022. (Photo: Kodiak Police Department)

“As the SAR coordinator for the state and as an Alaska State Trooper for over 20 years, I have never seen a more thorough and complete search for a missing person in my entire career,” Fussey said.

Boyle said that local businesses had also donated flash lights, bear spray, food and water for searchers in the days following Cipolla’s disappearance.

“It was both humbling and awe-inspiring to see the magnitude of generosity displayed over this past week, truly defining what it means to be a community and a family coming together in a time of tragedy,” said Boyle.

Boyle said he had spoken to the Cipolla family as recently as Saturday morning. 

“They ask that I pass on to the public their extreme thanks as well, and ask the public to not give up, and to always keep a watchful eye,” Boyle said.

Alaska State Troopers said any members of the public who may have seen something can still contact their Kodiak office and report it. Anyone with future leads should also call the troopers – their number in Kodiak is 907-486-4121.

They also are urging anyone in the Monashka Bay Road area who has not searched their property to do so.

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