Drones and Volunteers Help Locate Remains of Missing Boise Woman in Oregon

Estimated read time 2 min read

The nearly year-long search for Gwen Brunelle, a 27-year-old Boise woman who went missing in June 2023, has come to a close. Thanks to the efforts of drones and a dedicated group of volunteers, her remains were reportedly found in April 2024 on Succor Creek Road, off U.S. Highway 95 in eastern Oregon.

The Disappearance

Brunelle left Boise on June 26, 2023, with 11 of her show rabbits, telling her boyfriend she was driving to California to meet a show judge for training. However, the judge said he had never been in contact with her. She was last seen on June 27 at a Sinclair gas station in Jordan Valley, Oregon.

On June 30, a sheriff’s deputy found her vehicle with the rabbits still inside and Brunelle’s bathrobe folded nearby. Despite large-scale searches by law enforcement, volunteers, and search dogs, no trace of Brunelle was found for months.

The Role of Drones

In early April 2024, the Brunelle family hired Terravatta, a Homedale-based drone company, to grid search and capture footage of approximately 4,000 acres of Malheur County. The drones gathered tens of thousands of images, which were then reviewed by volunteers from Aloft Drone Search, a Portland nonprofit that assists with missing person searches using drone footage.

John Jones, founder of Aloft Drone Search, emphasized the importance of human eyes in analyzing the images, as image-analyzing software is not as accurate. After hundreds of hours of studying each individual drone image, a volunteer spotted what appeared to be human remains on April 7.

The Discovery

Jones contacted the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office, which sent deputies to the location provided by Aloft Drone Search. They found the remains approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) from Brunelle’s vehicle, just outside the previously searched area. The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the remains as Brunelle’s through dental records.

The Brunelle family expressed their gratitude to all those involved in the search efforts, including the volunteers who dedicated countless hours to the cause. They described their daughter as a “beautiful, intelligent, and talented person” with a passion for raising rabbits.

While the confirmation of Brunelle’s remains is bittersweet, the success of the drone search and the tireless efforts of volunteers have brought closure to the family. The Brunelles plan to provide details about a memorial service for their daughter in Boise soon.

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