DAY 12: Cell Data Reveals Last Known Location of Kyle Brittain
It has been almost two weeks since Kyle Brittain disappeared on the Big Island.
He was last seen near the Waipi‘o Valley Lookout area on the morning of Friday, Aug. 30, 2019.
He had informed family members that he was going hiking for the day on the Z Trail in Waipi‘o Valley toward Waimanu Valley. He has not returned or been heard from by family and friends since, despite intensive search efforts by Hawai‘i County and volunteer search-and-rescue teams.
Search Tech Advisory Team (STAT) leader Chris Berquist joined the search upon Kyle’s father’s request request on Sept. 3.
“We had a strong week and weekend of searching the valley, and following up on social intelligence leads and checking possible destinations,” Berquist told Big Island Now on Tuesday, Sept. 10.
Steve Brittain, Kyle’s father, said more than 100 volunteer helped with the search over the weekend.
VIDEO: Steve Brittain talks about the search for his son, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. VC: Darde Gamayo
The K-9 team from Kaua‘i Search and Rescue also joined the efforts over the weekend as well as another local team.
Steve said more K-9 teams are needed, although he realizes this is a limited resource in Hawai‘i.
But Berquist said that cell locations have finally been confirmed and mapped—Kyle’s last ping was detected from the one tower in the area.
“We are getting back to the facts—back to the data,” Berquist said. “Dismissing all of the hearsay, the data put his last location on the trail, so we are sending all of our resources to start working out from that location.”
The team is back to hard vertical hiking days with teams checking out creek beds and ridge zones.
“The energy in camp and within the search teams is good,” Berquest said regarding the 20 (approximately) volunteers who arrived to help on Tuesday. “No hum drum here. Everyone’s here to do work and we’re so lucky to have them.”
The team from Maui has been irreplaceable, said Berquist—from diving the swamp, to hiking back further than any other team has. Maui search team members who participated in two searches there include Javier Cantallops, Elena Pray, Ben (last name currently unknown) among others.
On Tuesday, the search team took their rappelling gear up the Z Trail to explore waterfall zones around the last detected ping.
“I can’t think of another set of folk I’d rather work with,” said Berquist. “In addition, local volunteer fire personnel and search-and-rescue team has come out to help. It’s another amazing community effort over here and I can’t imagine we’d pull it off with out them.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 11, Steve, a longtime Hilo resident, spoke to Big Island Now over the phone about the continuing search for his son.
He reported that already this morning, before 7 a.m., at least one helicopter was dropping searchers at the top of the mountain, but added that rain was impeding direct helicopter search efforts.
FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) aboard the helicopter cannot be used in the rain, Steve said.
They are hoping the rain clears up before the Maui STET team leaves today, Steve said.
“We are trying to utilize them the best we can today… these guys are amazing,” said Steve. He said they would be dropped at the top of the mountain today.
Steve relayed that there was a recent analysis correction made based on Kyle’s cell phone data.
“Some of this data is open to interpretation,” Steve said, especially when only one cell phone tower is involved. No triangulation is possible with only one cell tower.
“There are degrees of reliability-probability involved,” Steve said, adding that sons Cade and Sean, are also involved in the cell data analysis, along with Berquist’s consultant and Steve’s consultant.
The farther you get from the one tower, the less reliable the data is, Steve said.
The new analysis put Kyle on a mountain ridge that is closer to search camp headquarters—the new focus of the search.
Steve said he is very grateful for the volunteers and appreciates those bringing up food to the search camp, helping with errands and whatever else has been needed.
“The love and incredible community support of total strangers are what is keeping us going,” Steve said. “They opened up their hearts for us and it’s amazing.”
Steve talked about the circumstances surrounding his son’s hike.
“Kyle just finished massage school at Kapiʻolani Community College in Honolulu,” said Steve. “He was going to be taking his exams this month… he will be taking his exams this month. He was staying at our house in Hilo. My wife and I just got married a month ago and everybody was here for the wedding.”
“Kyle stayed here while we are on our honeymoon to watch our house,” Steve said. “His last day on the island he wanted to go do a hike … just a day hike.”
“Acceptance is the key here,” Steve said. “We just go out and do what we need to do to find him one day at a time. We get up the next day and go do it again. The more you think, though, the worse it gets.”
He said he disregards the incredulous, negative and sometimes cruel comments on social media.
“Please come on up and help continue the search,” Steve said. “We’re still looking for boots on the ground to come up to the Waipi‘o Overlook beginning at 8 a.m.—or 10 a.m. or noon—but 8 seems like the best time to go out.
The family is paying for search helicopters out-of-pocket, as well as house rental in the area, in addition to trying to provide supplies needed for the volunteers.
They are looking for ongoing fundraising through gofundme.
“Any contributions are very welcomed,” Steve said. “Prayers are always needed. We can feel the prayers but we just can’t find Kyle.”
More information is available on the Find Kyle Brittain Facebook page.
If you have any information about the location of Kyle, notify the Hawai‘i Police Department at (808) 935-3311.
- Wall for pop-up tents (protection from rain and direct sun)
- Dry erase board and markers
- Ziplock bags: quart and gallon sizes
- Food: need carbs and protein—rice, musubi, tacos, pasta salad (no mayo). Currently they have enough sweets and fruit.
- Aluminum foil
Experienced hikers in good physical shape are still needed to help comb the area on foot and experienced rappellers are essential for searching ravines and cliffs. Volunteers must be able to put in six to 10 hours of hard hiking. Volunteers are asked to wear bright clothing. They should bring their own food, water and fully charged cell phone. Cell phone reception is poor in the area, so the addition of a handheld GPS device is recommended.
Volunteers can meet at the Waipio Lookout at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and noon daily, where a central operations tent has been set up.
Children are asked to stay home for safety reasons. Dogs are not allowed in the area so as not to interfere with K-9 operations.