Recovered cellphone data helped guide a helicopter search Wednesday for clues on the disappearance of a missing 75-year-old West Richland man.
Loy Vannapho, who vanished Aug. 11, was reported missing that afternoon when he didn’t pick up his wife, Ma, from work at the Emerald of Siam in Richland.
Data from Vannapho’s cellphone company showed that his phone could have travelled as far as Pendleton before making its way back to the Tri-Cities. The signals were lost shortly after.
The Department of Homeland Security helped with a helicopter flyover Wednesday morning as Richland police detectives searched areas between Coffin Road and the Columbia River off Interstate 82.
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They were looking for anything that would give them more information about Vannapho’s whereabouts, said Richland police Capt. Mike Cobb.
“We know the technology was there, but we don’t know that the person was there,” Cobb said.
Police do not know exactly when the cellphone signals emanated from specific areas, but Vannapho’s phone likely died around 4 p.m. the same day he went missing, said DT Luu, his son-in-law.
“By that time it went straight to voicemail,” Luu said. “If it was on, he didn’t pick it up.”
On Aug. 12, the day after his disappearance, witnesses reported seeing Vannapho around the Columbia Point dock area and at Howard Amon Park. Police and Columbia Basin Dive Rescue unsuccessfully searched the river for him.
Police also recovered blood samples and fingerprints inside Vannapho’s abandoned truck. It’s unclear whether they belong to him or someone else, Cobb said. Lab test results could take months to process.
Meanwhile, police don’t know why blood was in the car.
“The possibilities are very, very wide open to how that occurred,” Cobb said.
We have no idea if there’s a crime involved or not yet.
Capt. Mike Cobb, Richland police
Luu described Vannapho’s phone as an older-style flip phone, which Vannapho often kept charged.
He was also known to keep his gas tank full, which Luu said was down to an eighth when police recovered it.
“That’s also another strange thing,” he said. “It’s never that way.”
Cobb said these types of investigations can be very time- and staff-intensive, and that they’ll have to see where the case goes next.
“We have no idea if there’s a crime involved or not yet,” Cobb said.
Luu said police have followed up with him almost weekly while they continue to investigate.
The case has since been transferred to Richland police Detective Hyrum Stohel. Anyone with more information is asked to call 509-628-0333.
Family members also have a Facebook page at facebook.com/justiceforloy for anyone who wants to help.