Monday, September 19, 2016

The legacy of a lost person - Jon Francis

A friend sent this article on the 10th anniversary of the death of Jon Francis in the wilderness…

Decade after son's death, Stillwater man tends legacy

… Jon Francis went missing July 15, 2006 while hiking in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. A wilderness searcher found his remains a little more than a year later, on July 24, 2007; he had fallen to his death from the north face of a mountain known as the Grand Mogul. At the time he disappeared, Jon, 24, was working at Luther Heights Bible Camp near Ketchum, Idaho. He also was a youth minister in Ogden, Utah…

… In the past 10 years, David Francis, 72, has emerged as a national advocate for missing adults. He has written a book, “Bringing Jon Home,” and founded the Jon Francis Foundation, which provides information and advice to families searching for people missing in the wild.

He was pivotal in the passage of the state’s “Brandon’s Law,” named after 19-year-old Brandon Swanson, who disappeared in southwestern Minnesota in May 2008. The law requires law enforcement agencies to file missing-persons reports and begin investigations when an adult disappears.

The Jon Francis Foundation has provided crisis and grief support to more than 40 families in 14 states and Canada. The latest search, in May in southwestern Colorado, was the best-organized search to date, Francis said.

Joe Keller, 18, of Cleveland, Ohio, went out for a run on the morning of July 23, 2015, in Antonito, Colo., and never returned.

The foundation helped the Keller family by assembling a team of 25 ground searchers and 11 certified search dogs and covered a large area around Keller’s last known position, Francis said. The team logged 30 “dog days” — cumulative days of canine search — and more than 20 ground-search days.

Sadly, Francis said, Keller was not found, and his disappearance remains a mystery…

Sounds like reporting of missing adults remains spotty in many states. I suspect it’s more common than we know. I wonder how much is predation, particularly in the west.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Year 14 - Brian is not forgotten

I see the 13th anniversary went by without a post. But so have a few years before that. It’s been a bit more than 14 years since Brian Faughnan was lost on July 12, 2002, last seen in Whistler BC.

We haven’t forgotten Brian. There’s been no news. A skeleton was found far from Whistler, but in the drainage area of where he was last seen. The RCMP did some DNA testing, but we have no word. They move very slowly. We doubt it’s related.

Since my last post Brian’s mother died. Our father still lives, now in a Veteran’s long term care facility. Recently Brian’s namesake, our uncle Brian W Faughnan, passed on.

Update 8/24/2016: The RCMP reported no match on the DNA from the remains they found. We hope that person’s family is found.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

12 years

Twelve years ago I was recovering after the search for Brian. He’d have been 47 now, maybe married. 

There has been no news, no body found. I think of him often. Today it was because his nephew, my oldest son, has been using Brian’s old water pack while mountain biking. Sometime I’ll have to let him know where it came from (I don’t want him to worry about losing it).

His parents are passing these days — our mother is unlikely to see another summer.

Somewhere in the multiverse there’s a Brian who didn’t disappear in Whistler BC. Here’s looking at ya brother.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Eight years before Brian was lost in Whistler BC, Anne Marie Potton died there.

It's been almost 12 years since Brian was lost at Whistler - July 12, 2002. His parents and siblings are still alive, and so, I believe are all the friends who searched that July. Some have married and had children.

Even at that time, we hears stories of a woman who died in that area in October 1994. A comment on a 2011 post brought a reference to an article in a BC news magazine. I don't know how long that article will last, so I've excerpted parts of it below. It's really an article about Whistler Search and Rescue, but I'm concentrating on the parts about the missing person. Emphases and dates added. ...

missing in mtns | Feature Story | Pique Newsmagazine | Whistler, CANADA June 2000

The Anne Marie Potton search was a watershed for Whistler Search and Rescue By G.D. Maxwell

... On a warm, late summer Saturday in September [1995], after a Whistler summer where warm weather never really gained a solid purchase, the town was full of activity...

... Scrambling into the bowl and hiking to where the coyotes’ attention seemed to be concentrated, the decomposed and partially consumed remains of a person were discovered. Dressed in green stretch pants, a dark green plaid shirt and a blue turtleneck, the clothes and description were a match and it appeared the mysterious disappearance of Anne Marie Potton had been solved.

... Why hadn’t she been found last October [1994] after she disappeared and upwards of 120 people had scoured the mountain every day for a week? How had she turned up in a location we’d searched at least three times by air with heat-detecting infrared gear, maybe four times with dog teams and innumerable times on foot? What happened?

... Monday, October 10, 1994, was Canadian Thanksgiving and all the plans for stuffed turkey dinner had been put on hold. A hiker was missing on Whistler Mountain and had been since late in the day on Saturday, already not a good sign.

... We search for signs, for clues, not for people. What we had so far in the way of clues was less than skimpy. She’d last been seen by a co-worker around 2:30 Saturday afternoon. She was going hiking, maybe to Singing Pass, maybe the Musical Bumps or maybe the peak area, which in itself didn’t make a lot of sense given the timeframe for last ride down. Her season pass had been scanned at the base of the mountain and she’d failed to meet friends Saturday evening.

She’d been reported missing Sunday morning. According to her employer at the Mad Café and her friends, she was reliable; it was unlikely she’d just flaked off and headed for the city on a lark. She was blond, 5’8', in good physical shape, lightly dressed and carried no food or water with her. She had degrees in political science and geography from Western in Ontario and was comfortable in the outdoors. She’d lived in Whistler since the previous fall and had an extensive network of friends. She was an instant local, one of our own. We had no last-seen point and no fixed itinerary.

Nadine Nesbitt and Leigh Edwards, summer patrollers/guides, were positive they’d heard two calls made by a female on Sunday afternoon coming from somewhere around Harmony Bowl or maybe from the Singing Pass area. And that was it; not much to go on. To make matters worse, Saturday proved to be the last reasonable weather day. Conditions deteriorated overnight and by late Sunday afternoon it was snowing in the alpine and raining lower down. The wind was up and the temperature was down. Indian summer had segued into winter at the worst possible moment. Based on what little was known, I was assigned Monday to search the cliffs along Harmony Ridge and out toward the Musical Bumps....

... There’s an axiom in search and rescue: People can't fly; if they passed through someplace, they left signs. Toe digs, rolled rocks, disturbed vegetation, kick marks, something. There’s another almost Holmesian rule about searching: When in doubt, do what a 'rational' person would do in the same circumstances. If that doesn’t turn up anything, do the opposite because at that point, they could be anywhere. By the close of Monday, I was into doing the opposite because there was absolutely no sign, no last-seen point, no nothing.

... By Tuesday, a small army of searchers and a larger army of volunteers from the community — people who knew Anne Marie and people who only knew someone was missing — were getting involved. The media were in on the act and Anne Marie’s father was on his way out from Ontario. Then, late Tuesday evening, everything changed. Five hikers from North Vancouver contacted the RCMP. They’d seen Anne Marie on the mountain Saturday. They’d taken her picture for her, with her camera, with Black Tusk in the background.

They’d talked to her near Whistler Peak and that’s the direction she continued hiking. Finally, we had a last-seen point. By Wednesday morning, the search had become a military operation.

.... in my wildest dreams, I couldn’t imagine her heading under the warning rope and down Whistler Bowl, figuring on making Shale Slope and straight-lining the Roundhouse. We’re talking almost 45 degrees of blue ice! With crampons and an ice axe, maybe. More likely with all that and a belay rope. We spent the rest of Wednesday searching the bowl in horrible weather.

The look of doubt that must have been on my face showed on those of the other teams as well. In the bowl with me were a couple of dog teams, crevasse teams painstakingly scouring every opening in the ice, and a few other ground teams. We covered obvious terrain — fall line from the entrance to the terminal moraine at the bottom of Whistler Bowl. Anyone entering the bowl would have slid straight down. It was pointless to look for tracks because over a foot and a half of snow had fallen since Anne Marie went missing.

The only possible sign would have been a mound of snow and there was none to be found. At day’s end we reported our findings to Alex Bunbury and he checked our areas off his map. Awake instead of sleeping early Thursday morning, I couldn’t shake the alternatives. It was clear if she didn’t get off the mountain on Saturday she was dead by now. But maybe she did. There had been, during the fall of 1994, a number of assault incidents, women hitchhiking. Maybe this was a criminal case.

Or maybe we were looking for Fernando. Fernando went missing around Easter of 1975. At least that’s what his friend said after he’d been found wandering down by the railroad tracks near Sproat Mountain. He was hypothermic and told a story about becoming separated from his friend, Fernando. We geared up a search in pretty miserable conditions. Eighteen inches of fresh spring snow made looking for tracks difficult and made slogging through the bush a test of endurance. After a couple of days with no sign of Fernando whatsoever, the guy that had been found, a Mexican national who’d come into the country illegally through the U.S., admitted he had been alone; he was trying to throw the spotlight off himself... 

... It wouldn’t have been the first time we’d searched for someone who didn’t want to be found. There was the search a couple of summers back when a woman had gone missing from Brandywine Falls campground. Her husband said she’d gone for an early morning hike while he caught a few more winks. Again with North Shore, we searched the cliffs and down along the river with no luck. It wasn’t until a couple of days later, when the RCMP searched her apartment and found all her stuff missing, the story became clear. She’d run off with another man, disappeared. A bit like the 18 year old valedictorian from California. She got lost on the mountain over American Thanksgiving. Turned up in the Pem Ho with a logger she’d met. Her mother still doesn’t believe it...

... But that wasn’t the case here. This one seemed destined to have a tragic ending. Judging by the number of her friends who turned out to help search, Anne Marie didn’t seem to fit the profile of someone who’d flake off. She’d touched a lot of people in the year she’d been here. Her father supported that impression. George Potton had spoken to us early Wednesday morning and again at the end of the day. He was a large man with dark hair and a warm smile. He was genuinely as warm as his smile and he let us know how much he appreciated everything that was being done....

... Whistler Mountain covers 64 square kilometres. It takes 40 people eight hours to search one square kilometre to 80 per cent probability, that is to say, 80 per cent certainty that if someone was there we’d have spotted them. Eliminating the unlikely areas and focusing on the realistic areas, given the last known point, we were approaching 90 per cent probability in many of the most likely areas. And weather was working against us. There is an inherent danger in any search and rescue operation. While the probability of finding a victim diminishes with time and number of searchers, the probability of one of the searchers getting hurt increases. We were running out of places to search, running out of weather to search in, and beginning to gravely concern the search and mountain managers that someone was going to get hurt if we kept it up.

Saturday, October 15, a week after she’d disappeared, a meeting was held in Whistler council chambers. The seven people charged with different responsibilities attended as did Anne Marie’s family. Presentations were made of everything that was known to date. Brad went over the chronology of the search, documenting what had been done on an hourly basis from day one, what areas had been searched, how many times, to what degree of probability. At the end of four and a half hours all the searchers were of one mind: they would do whatever else the family wanted done to find Anne Marie. The family decided there was nothing left to do. It had all been done. They accepted their daughter and sister was either dead or missing.

Sunday the searchers met in the Fire Hall. We were all gathered around the pool table. One of the North Shore managers spoke first, announcing the search was being called off. Close friends of Anne Marie who’d been involved in the search started crying immediately; some protested. But then George Potton spoke. He thanked everyone effusively. He spoke like a gracious father of his daughter, his love for her, her love for Whistler. He said Whistler was the most generous and sympathetic resort community in the world. He assured everyone the family of Anne Marie was at peace with the decision to suspend the search. He made strong men and women cry...

... When I finally saw the spot where she was found, I realized we’d probably searched within 20 or 30 feet of Anne Marie. She had headed down the blue ice of Whistler Bowl. She had lost her footing and slid. She broke her leg in the fall. Somehow, she came to a stop and managed to crawl over to a rock band that forms a lateral moraine about a third of the way down the bowl on skier’s left. She dragged herself maybe 150 metres along the rock band until she either passed out from pain and shock, ran out of strength or realized it was straight ice below her from there to the terminal moraine and gave up. Then she melted into the glacier and died.

Her body froze rapidly and rain that fell before turning to snow covered her body with a thick layer of verglas, hermetically sealing her into the mountain and eliminating any trace of scent, which is why the dogs who passed close by failed to catch her scent. Snow that fell before anyone imagined to search the bowl covered her body and since she’d melted into the glacier, no telltale mound of snow even gave her tomb away. She was probably dead hours before anyone reported her missing...

Assuming Brian did reach the mountain (rather than, say, hitchhike to a different trail and never arrive) I wonder about a similar fate. In july there's less snow, but there are glaciers one can slip and fall into. From there remains may never be found.

I found one other story on Anne Marie -- focusing on her family and their response.


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Brian would have been 46 today

Brian was born June 6th, 1967. Easy to remember as it was Canada's centennial celebration; I think my parents got a certificate of some kind. He was 35 when he went missing in Whistler BC; looks like the old web site still works though some of it is obsolete now.

There's been no news since his disappearance.

Happy birthday brother.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Brian's story, told a bit later ...

Came across this while looking for something else...

It was published in the Whistler question, perhaps in 2004. I found it here:

Man's disappearance still a mystery

By Nicole Davis

Brian Faughnan went for a hike in Whistler on July 12, 2002. Or, at least that is what is thought to have happened. No one quite knows what happened to Faughnan, because he disappeared and no one has seen him since.

Although Faughnan’s family had a memorial for him and speak of him in the past tense, his family is still looking for clues. They have posted announcements in Whistler’s newspapers and have a website dedicated to Faughnan and his disappearance.

Faughnan, a Montreal film editor and avid hiker, had come to Whistler on an tour organized by Bigfoot Adventure Tours of New Westminster. The tour left on July 13 without Faughnan. He was last seen asking for directions to the Rainbow Lake trailhead early that Saturday morning.

And then he was gone.

“It’s harder than having somebody just die,” Faughnan’s brother John Faughnan said in a telephone interview from his home in Minnesota. “It’s like having someone missing in action in a war.”

As soon as Faughnan was notified of his brother’s disappearance, he and some of Brian’s hiking friends came to Whistler to search for Brian. The search lasted two weeks. After Week 1, the Search and Rescue and local RCMP called off the search because of a lack of clues and bad weather. Brian’s friends and family continued for another week.

As details came out, although few and far between, John Faughnan learned that although his brother had asked for directions to the Rainbow trail, he may have wound up on the Valley Trail instead.

Fliers were sent out and questionnaires left at local stores, but nothing came up and John Faughnan went home to Montreal to prepare for a memorial service in September.

Faughnan says there was no reason for Brian to have disappeared on his own, nor any reason to suspect that his brother was killed. Faughnan believes that Brian wandered off the trail or decided to go bushwhacking, something Brian was known for doing, and got into trouble that he couldn’t get out of.

“It would be really eas y to hike that trail (Rainbow Trail) and see no one at all,” Faughnan said. “He was very good, very experienced but it doesn’t matter.”

The search crew also handed out fliers to hikers on the trail, and although some people did contact him saying they saw different things, nothing solid came out.

At the Shoestring Lodge, Brian Faughnan left behind his passport, day planner, sleeping bag and clothing. He was thought to only have taken a light rucksack with provisions for a day hike. He always used sign-in logs on trails when they were available, but most B.C. parks have removed their sign-in logs as a budget-cutting measure.

John Faughnan said his brother has experienced some past problems while hiking. Four years ago, he fell down a cliff and broke both legs, an arm in a few places and was blinded in one eye. He was hospitalized for six months and needed reconstructive surgery. The fall did not deter him from taking risks and he continued to make trails more challenging by not taking the preferred way down. Instead, he often cut through the brush and trees, John Faughnan said.

He wrote many trip reports for him and his friends, and those reports show a carefree man who loved the outdoors and had quite a sense of humour. He also had quite an imagination and wrote a science fiction screenplay called “Tempus Accelerare.”

Faughnan is still welcoming anyone who can help him find out what happened to Brian. For more information on Brian and his disappearance, visit John Faughnan’s website at or contact John Faughnan at, or phone 651-336-5548.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Brian's album

Been a while since I looked at the online album for Brian.

That does ache.

There has never been any sign of his body.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Brian Faughnan - A Life

I posted these images to SmugMug in June 2004. I've closed the SmugMug account, so I'm reposting them here. I'll also gather up some other albums at the same time. Cross-posted to Brian's blog.

Brian Faughnan's Story

Here's another album on Picasa that overlaps with the above:

Brian Douglas Anthony Faughnan


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Entering year nine

I was thinking this was the tenth year since Brian disappeared, but we're only entering year nine.

Tim was five then. I remember him asking, when I phoned our home from the Vancouver airport, if I'd found Brian. I don't think he'd remember Brian now, Tim is almost 14.

I still have a technical jacket Brian owned. He didn't take it with him on his hike, we think he took another one he'd bought before the trip. That puzzles me. Even nine years later it's a very good jacket. I must have worn it a thousand times. He wasn't wealthy. Why did he leave it behind? Why did he replace it?

I'll never know.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I Am Missing - addition

I Am Missing is a database of persons missing in Canada. They kindly added Brian on my request.