Cal Poly student missing after trip down Sacramento River

Brett Olson is circled in red in this photo provided by his family.
Brett Olson is circled in red in this photo provided by his family.

The search continued Wednesday for a Cal Poly theater student who went missing Sunday on the Sacramento River near Chico after participating in an annual Labor Day river float.

Authorities received several reports from people who thought they spotted 20-year-old Brett Olson, but the tips did not pan out, said Undersheriff Rich Warren of the Glenn County Sheriff’s Department.

Olson was last seen about 1 p.m. Sunday on a gravel bar known as Beer Can Beach, about eight to 10 miles from Chico, near Hamilton City, Warren said. Students often stop at the beach as they float down a short section of the Sacramento River; on Sunday, more than 10,000 people participated in the float.

Olson, who is from the Bay Area city of Lafayette, traveled to Chico with two friends to visit friends at Chico State, Warren said. There were about 4,000 to 5,000 people on Beer Can Beach about 1 p.m. Sunday, the time that Olson lost contact with his friends.

Warren said about 50 law enforcement personnel from various agencies monitored Sunday’s float and did a sweep of the beach and the river after the event wrapped up about 7:30 p.m. They did not know Olson was missing at that time.Olson’s parents reported him missing Monday when he did not return home, Warren said.

The Butte County Sheriff’s Office’s search and rescue team has been looking for Olson both on the ground, where dense bushes makes searching difficult, and by helicopter.

Warren said authorities received a report from someone who heard a sound similar to a person moaning in the area where Olson was last seen, and Butte County and State Parks officials searched from midnight to 5 a.m. Wednesday without success.

On Wednesday, efforts continued with a joint search and rescue operation involving Butte and Glenn counties, with assistance from State Parks, state Fish and Game Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We are utilizing aircraft as well as ground personnel; however, the area is heavy vegetation and difficult to search,” Warren said in an email Wednesday afternoon.

Olson is described as 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 160 pounds with short brown hair. He was last seen wearing dark shorts, with no shirt or shoes. Anyone with information can call Glenn County sheriff’s officials at 530-934-6431 or the Chico Police Department at 530-895-4994.

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