Toronto firefighter found safe in California after disappearing from New York ski trip
Rachael D'Amore, CTV News Toronto
Published Tuesday, February 13, 2018 3:37PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 14, 2018 1:07AM EST
A Toronto firefighter who disappeared during a ski trip in upstate New York has been found “alive and in good health” in Sacramento, Calif.
Constantinos “Danny” Filippidis disappeared on Feb. 7 when he got caught in a snowstorm while skiing on Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, New York.
According to Toronto Professional Fire Firefighters’ Association President Frank Ramagnano, Filippidis was able to make a call to his wife sometime this afternoon.
“He had called her by a nickname and she quickly recognized the voice and that it was him but then they lost contact. He contacted her again and they kept him on the phone and asked him to call 911 to get him help as soon as possible,” he said.
New York State Police confirmed on Tuesday that Filippidis has since been located, after he “made contact with local authorities” in Sacramento.
Once he was in police care, Ramagnano said Filippidis was “confused” and “unable to give direct answers.” Police determined that he needed medical care and brought him to a hospital.
“I believe he’s still under medical monitoring,” he said.
“I’m told that he still had the same clothing that he was skiing in and the authorities seemed to indicate that it looked like he had been in those clothes since he had been missing.”
While speaking with Sacramento police, Filippidis said he was missing and declined the fact that he was a victim of a crime.
“He identified himself and he was transported from our custody to a local hospital where he is getting treatment,” Sgt. Shaun Hampton with Sacramento police told CP24 in an interview over the phone on Tuesday evening. “He believes he suffered a head injury at some point but is unclear as to when that occurred.”
Hampton said Filippidis told officials he slept for a great deal of the trip from the east to west coast of the United States.
“After speaking with him (Filippidis) it sounds as if he may have gotten a ride in a big rig – he was unable to provide us with a description of the big rid or a description of the driver of the big rig – but he was found with cash in his possession and a Visa card and a cell phone he had recently purchased,” he said.
Hampton added officers believe he was a “willing participant” of this journey and said that drugs or alcohol did not appear to be a factor in the incident.
Ramagnano said Filippidis went missing during an annual trip organized by a group of off-duty firefighters. He said Filippidis was skiing with one other person but when that person started to feel fatigued, he said Filippidis decided to do “one last run” by himself.
The group was due to return home that night.
At the time of disappearance, police said that more than a metre of snow had fallen over a 24-hour period and that the storm likely made visibility poor. The dumping of snow also hampered search efforts, they said.
Ramagnano said police conducted a “comprehensive investigation” and through numerous interviews with people on the trip, they found no indication “of any problems” or that Filippidis was impaired.
“People are going to assume what they’re going to assume, but I think we have authorities in California and in New York State who will do a full search,” he said, acknowledging the approximately 4,665 kilometres between the two locations.
“There were a lot of resources that New York State put into this search and they’re going to want to make sure that nothing here was done maliciously, as they should. They’ll do a comprehensive investigation.”
At the height of the search, more than 140 forest rangers, state police officers, members of Homeland Security, area ski patrols and off-duty Toronto firefighters were involved.
Ramagnano called the response from fellow firefighters “tremendous,” with about 100 volunteering to aid in the search efforts. He said he’s proud of how his members came together and that their collaboration speaks to the closeness of the service.
“I know that there were 80 on the mountain today searching for him and we had an equal number of firefighters willing to work shift for the firefighters that went,” he said.
“Some knew him really well and some didn’t know him at all, (but) they all understood that one of us was in trouble. We use the terms ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ and I’m glad that they’re not just words because the actions of (our members) this past week really showed me that we are a family.”
In an earlier statement, Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said members of Toronto Fire Services are “relieved” to know Filippidis was found safe.
“We are all very relieved to know that he is safe, following what has been an exhaustive search operation,” Pegg wrote.
He went on to thank those who aided in the search.
Authoritites have not said when Filippidis will return back to Toronto.