A Toronto firefighter who mysteriously went missing while on a ski trip to upstate New York has been found "alive and in good health" in California, New York State Police said Tuesday.
Constantinos "Danny" Filippidis, 49, a captain with the Toronto Fire Service, made contact with local authorities in Sacramento, Calif., according to a short police statement. The news ended a nearly six-day search for Filippidis, who went missing on Feb. 7 during a ski trip to Whiteface Mountain in upstate New York.
"The circumstances regarding this case are under investigation, and further details will be released at a later time," the police statement said.
Soon after police issued their statement, Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said Filippidis's colleagues "are all very relieved to know that he is safe."
"Although details are limited at this time, we have been advised that he is in the care of police in Sacramento," Pegg's statement, released over Twitter, said.
"As this is now the subject of an ongoing investigation, I am unable to provide further comment."
Frank Ramagnano, president of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters Association (TPFFA), said in a statement that Filippidis made contact with his wife earlier this afternoon.
"She was communicating with him from the command centre, and the state police were working to try and secure his safety," Ramagnano's statement said.
Early Tuesday evening, Ramagnano told reporters that he is "extremely happy" that Filippidis is well and will be reunited with his family.
When Filippidis made contact with his wife, "he was confused" and unable to give direct answers to her questions," Ramagnano said. Filippidis called her by a nickname and she recognized his voice, Ramagnano said.
When police located Filippidis they were concerned and got him medical attention, according to Ramagnano, who said it was his understanding that Filippidis was still receiving medical care.
Filippidis was alone when he was found, and was still wearing the clothing he had been skiing in when he went missing, he said. Asked if Filippidis has a history of mental illness, Ramagnano said he didn't know. He noted that police were in possession of Filippidis's passport, so it was unlikely he flew to California.
"We understand that there will be speculation and many questions at this time; however, please appreciate that authorities will be conducting a full and thorough investigation into what transpired," Ramagnano said. "No matter what the circumstances are surrounding this situation, it does not diminish the efforts and work of all involved."
More than 100 firefighters
In his statement, Pegg thanked "all those who participated in the search" for Filippidis.
Jon Lundin, spokesperson for the Olympic Regional Development Authority, which runs the Whiteface ski centre, said last Friday that more than 140 people were looking for Filippidis.
Searchers included police, forest rangers from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Office of Emergency Management, Office of Fire Prevention Services, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Whiteface and Gore Mountain ski patrol.
Kevin McCarthy, vice-president of the Toronto Professional Firefighters Association, said last week that Filippidis was part of a group of off-duty and retired firefighters, friends and family making an annual ski trip.
On Tuesday, Ramagnano said that before Filippidis went missing, he was skiing with a friend who got tired and wanted to stop. Filippidis stayed out on the hill for one more run. The group was scheduled to return home that night, he said.
According to Ramagnano, about 100 Toronto firefighters travelled to the area to help with the search, and an equal number of their colleagues agreed to backfill their shifts.