Nearly a week after College sophomore Blaze Bernstein went missing from his home in Orange County, California on Jan. 2, efforts to find him are continuing to grow and diversify.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department searched the Whiting Ranch area, the park adjacent to Bernstein’s last confirmed whereabouts, until Jan. 6, and the Bernstein family and some friends conducted independent drone operations on Jan. 7 of the same area.
Contrary to reports from NBC News that the search for Bernstein had ended, efforts to locate the Penn student are still underway, authorities said.
Carrie Braun, the public information manager for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, said search and rescue missions would not continue in the Whiting Ranch area, but confirmed that the case was still active and that investigators were pursuing several different leads in other locations.
“Although that specific search and rescue effort in that specific area has ended does not mean the search for Blaze has ended,” Braun said. “[This case] will continue to be actively a missing person’s case investigation until they find something that will lead them otherwise, and up until this point, everything that we have found is still leading us towards a missing person’s case."
Public awareness for Bernstein’s case has also continued to grow. Gideon Bernstein, the student's father, started a public Facebook group in the hope of creating a central place to disseminate information and collect any tips from the public.
What started as a few dozen members in the Facebook group grew to approximately 6,000-7,000 members on Jan. 6 and reached almost 10,000 members by Jan. 8, Bernstein’s father said.
“People have been just so generous with their time helping out and passing out flyers,” he said.
Various celebrities have helped to publicize the search efforts as well. Long-time former NBA star and fellow Californian Kobe Bryant shared the missing persons poster for Bernstein on his Facebook page.
The Bernstein family has been in touch with various people at Penn, his father said. Bernstein lives alone in an off-campus location, and his father said he was in touch with Penn administrators to check in on the apartment.
Before leaving for winter break, Bernstein was appointed as managing editor for Penn Appetit, a food publication at Penn. Bernstein's father sent Penn Appetit's executive director, Wharton sophomore Rachel Prokupek, a text message from Bernstein's phone with the notes Bernstein had taken in preparation for the Penn Appetit agenda the following semester.
"Penn Appetit is thinking of him," Prokupek said. "We're keeping him in our thoughts. We're hoping he returns to our team and our club and we're really excited to work on the magazine with him because that's what he's really excited to do."
Bernstein was recently hired as a copy associate for 34th Street, and last semester, he wrote a guest column in The Daily Pennsylvanian criticizing the University's implementation of recommendations from its Task Force for a Safe and Responsible Campus Community.