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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Desperate Search for Missing Teen

Search for Missing Danville Teen Draws Support From Around the Bay Area

Allison "Alliy" Bayliss, 15, was last seen Monday. Her bike was found in a parking lot near the Golden Gate Bridge.
By Kari Hulac, Elizabeth Shemaria, Kyle Bonagura, and Martha Ross

The desperate effort to find a 15-year-old suicidal girl from a wealthy East Bay suburb is drawing together thousands of strangers on Facebook and hundreds of volunteer searchers to the rugged foothills around the Golden Gate Bridge.
With 15-year-old Allison “Alliy” Bayliss missing for 48 hours, the fear is palpable. Last seen about 8 a.m. Monday, it appears she rode her purple mountain bike to a BART station nine miles away from her Danville home and took the 40-minute trip to the Embarcadero near Fisherman's Wharf.
The Diamondback bike, a helmet by its side, was found by Alliy's father around 4:45 a.m. Tuesday. It was locked to a bike rack in a parking lot about eight miles away from the Embarcadero, at Fort Point, a national historic site in the Marin Headlands that overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge, a known suicide magnet that draws about 19 people annually to their deaths.
In fact, just last week San Francisco Bay Area-based speaker Kevin Hines, one of only about 30 people to ever survive a suicide attempt from the bridge, visited Bayliss’ school, San Ramon Valley High, to tell his story and spread awareness that “suicide is never the solution to any problem.” As he spoke, many students were reduced to tears.
In April, a 16-year-old girl made local headlinesby miraculously surviving a jump from the bridge. She was rescued from the cold waters of San Francisco Bay by residents of Alamo and Walnut Creek, two communities bordering Danville.
In October 2008, after years of controversy, the Golden Gate Bridge board of directors finally agreed to erect a net barrier to help deter jumpers. It's going to cost $40 million and funding hasn't yet been identified.
“Now that our students are seeing a suicide crisis happening in front of them, some are beginning to realize that suicide prevention happens right now, not when it’s already too late,” said San Ramon Valley senior Amanda Nguyen, who wrote a column about Alliy for Danville Patch.
She said many students could relate to what Alliy might be going through.
“This unfortunate situation has opened the eyes of many teenagers,” Nguyen wrote. “They are suddenly starting to realize how much they can relate to Alliy, in the sense that they have — at one point or another — just wanted to run away from it all.”
The sobering reality of Alliy's situation stands in stark contrast to the town's demographics as a wealthy suburb of 42,000 nestled 30 miles east of San Francisco. In addition to being the hometown of famous airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger, it recently made headlines for its residents spending the most money among any city in California on clothing.
Now it’s attracting the media spotlight for its community spirit.
Multiple Facebook pages supporting the search effort sprung up overnight, one of them attracting 11,000 members in 24 hours. It has since been shut down but others are taking its place. An estimated 100 people from Danville left behind their jobs and other obligations and spent Tuesday posting fliers and combing the trails, beaches and city streets looking for Allison.
Kevin Sawcheck, a friend of the family, said the search will continue as long as necessary.
"Everyone is just focused on finding Alliy," said Sawcheck. "We are obviously very worried. Alliy, please come back. We all love you and want you to come back home."
Danville Police Chief Steve Simpkins said the participation of Danville residents in the search has been awe-inspiring.   
"The community of Danville is acting as if it's their own family member," he said.
Troy Corti, a 2002 graduate of San Ramon Valley High, was part of the search near the bridge Tuesday.
Corti, who grew up in the San Ramon Valley but now lives in San Francisco, heard about Bayliss from text messages and Facebook.
"I thought it (volunteering) was something I should do," he said.
By all accounts Alliy looks like typical Danville-raised teen: She attended elementary and middle school there; has three siblings and sports that all-American look: long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, blue eyes, athletic — she’s on the swim team — with a wide smile that proudly show teeth recently freed of braces. There are even videos of her skillfully playing popular classical tunes on the piano, such as the theme from the movie "The Titanic," posted on a YouTube channel. 
It’s likely hundreds will attend a multi-denominational vigil planned for her and her family from 7 to 8 p.m. tonight at Danville Congregational Church.
Allison was last seen wearing a red zip hoodie jacket, jeans and mismatching flip-flops, one green and one yellow. She is 5-foot-8, has blue eyes and blonde hair and weighs 130 pounds.
Anyone with information is asked to call 9-1-1 immediately or 925-646-2441

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