West Virginia State Police Unsuccessful In Locating Missing Virginia Man In Cranberry Wilderness
Marlinton, WV – After two days of intensive searching and even bringing in a cadaver dog search team, the West Virginia State Police are no closer to locating Michael Camellitti, a former Army Special Forces Colonel who was reported missing by his family on June 20th in Green County, Virginia. According to his family, it’s not unusual for the divorced father of two to go off on solo hiking trips such as this.
A note left on Camellitti’s car indicates he intended to enter the Cranberry Wilderness on May 23rd and come back out on May 27th. Unfortunately he didn’t notify his family of his intentions, hence the late filing of the missing person report. On June 27th, West Virginia State Police Trooper Mark Agee ran a check on the license plate on Camellitti’s vehicle and in the process discovered the missing person report.
On June 28th, ten two-man search and rescue teams were dispatched to the 65,000 acre Cranberry Wilderness to begin searching for Camellitti, according to Pocahontas County Emergency Services Director Melvin Martin. He says on June 29th, six two-man teams were also sent out, in addition to the cadaver dog team. Martin says despite searching every trail in the wilderness, some of them twice, no trace of Camellitti could be found.
Sargeant Glen Galloway of the Marlinton detachment of the West Virginia State Police says it’s hard for people to understand just how difficult it is to search an area as wild and vast as the wilderness. He gives as an example a search conducted in the wilderness years ago.
“Years ago, there was a Cessna plane that went down in that area, and I think the GPS was messed up on it, but they knew the general area where it went down and it was in the Cranberry Wilderness” says Sgt. Galloway, “and it took ten years to find the plane. Initially the first few days they were all over the place looking for it on foot, and flying over and trying to look for it.”
He says the debris field from the crash was the size of a football field, with large pieces still intact. But that didn’t make it any easier to spot.
“Since then I’ve been to this site” he says. “It’s about 8 miles off of the road, and it’s actually not too far off one of the trails. And when you get there, like we were 50 yards away [and] couldn’t see it; you couldn’t see it until got within 20 yards. So what I’m saying is, if you’re walking on a trail, this guy could have been 10 foot away from you and you would walk by him and still wouldn’t be able to find him.”
There is also speculation that Camellitti may have tumbled into the river, swollen at that time by heavy rains. Melvin Martin says one unidentified young woman was also camping and hiking in the wilderness around the same time as Camellitti. He says she’s shocked to hear that he’s been missing all this time and got a life lesson in the importance of letting others know about your wilderness plans.
While the search efforts were not continued on June 30th, Sgt. Galloway says efforts to locate Camellitti will continue as the investigation develops. If you have any information about the missing man, please contact the West Virginia State Police at 304-799-4101.