Six days after Dana Dourdeville ’15 did not return from a duck-hunting trip off the Massachusetts coast, friends and family members have joined police search efforts, and officials are considering an underwater search.
About 250 friends and family members scoured the coastline of West Island in Fairhaven, Mass., from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday but failed to find Dourdeville or his belongings, said Bill Tilden, athletic director at Old Rochester Regional High School and Dourdeville’s former track coach, who organized the search party.
The volunteers braved snow and cold temperatures to explore the West Island beach in four directions in groups of 35, Tilden said. Approximately 150 additional volunteers searched other nearby beaches in Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, Marion, New Bedford and Cape Cod, he said.
“I would have loved to have found something,” Tilden said. “But there were footprints everywhere. We got great coverage and we didn’t miss anything. There truly wasn’t anything there.”
Dourdeville, an engineering concentrator, left his Marion, Mass., home on New Year’s Eve to go duck hunting alone in a kayak.
His mother found his car in the town beach parking lot of West Island that evening, and the Coast Guard identified his unoccupied kayak floating about three miles offshore later that night. The kayak did not appear to have overturned, and a single glove was inside.
Tilden said he galvanized the search party through a Facebook post Saturday.
“The Dourdevilles and I are looking for your help,” the Facebook message read. “We are asking anyone who may be willing to help to join us in the search.”
The message went “viral,” Tilden said, garnering 500 shares and coverage in two local newspapers by midnight.
“I was very nervous that West Island couldn’t hold that many people,” he said. Tilden made a second Facebook status Sunday encouraging volunteers to disperse from West Island to other beaches.
Looking ahead, Tilden said he hoped to sit down with the Dourdeville family Monday and plan for another search party next weekend that would spread out over several beaches.
“Our thoughts are with Dana and his family during this difficult time,” wrote Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, in an email Wednesday to The Herald.
Sunday’s search party built off ongoing efforts by local law enforcement agencies.
The Fairhaven Police Department suspended its active search for Dourdeville Thursday due to weather conditions, but the unit continues to lead an “ongoing and active investigation” in conjunction with the Massachusetts Environmental Police, said Sergeant Kevin Kobza, public information officer for the Fairhaven Police. He declined to comment on the details of the investigation.
Fairhaven police will meet Wednesday with the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council Underwater Search and Recovery Team “to discuss underwater search options,” he said.
Officers combed the West Island beach with police dogs Sunday before volunteers arrived and then remained nearby while friends and family members searched, Kobza added.
The Massachusetts Environmental Police also suspended its search for Dourdeville Thursday due to the impending winter storm, resumed its search Sunday and then halted its search again Monday due to excessive fog, said spokesperson Amy Mahler.
The Environmental Police will continue its search “once weather conditions allow,” Mahler said, adding that police will rely on side-scan sonar, a technology that generates images of the sea floor.
The Coast Guard actively suspended its search Thursday due to weather conditions and would only resume its efforts “if something new were to pop up,” such as information about Dourdeville’s location, said Petty Officer Third Class Myeonghi Clegg.
“It’s always difficult to have to suspend a search like that,” she added. “Our hearts go out to his family.”