A candlelight vigil is being planned for the former Chartiers Township man missing for nearly a week after Saturday’s deadly mudslide in Washington state as family and friends hold out hope that he and his three children will be found alive.
The vigil for Billy Spillers is planned for 8 p.m. Friday at Chartiers-Houston High School’s football stadium, where the 2001 graduate once played as an all-conference defensive end.
Briana Elias is one of several high school friends of Spillers organizing the vigil and collecting donations to help his family. Elias remained in contact with Spillers over the years and spoke with him less than a week before the natural disaster.
“It’s still so hard to comprehend that he could be gone,” Elias said. “But I’m still hoping he’s in an air pocket somewhere and that his kids are with him. I’m still trying to have faith that he’s out there.”
Elias, who dated Spillers in high school before they parted ways after graduation, recalled his warm and sometimes wild personality in which he shaved his head before their senior prom in an attempt to look like wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
“He’s just all-around a great guy. Very outgoing,” Elias said. “He would pretty much do anything for anybody.”
Immediately after high school graduation, Spillers moved to northeastern Pennsylvania, where his mother had a family home. About a year later, he joined the U.S. Navy and recently attained rank of chief petty officer, Elias said. Spillers thought about moving back to the area, possibly West Virginia, to be closer to his hometown, after spending another decade in the Navy, Elias said.
For now, Spillers’ family and friends are holding on to hope he can be found after his home and dozens of other residences in Arlington, Wash., were wiped out by the mudslide. At least 24 people have been confirmed dead and dozens more are still missing.
Spillers’ 4-year-old son, Jacob, was found immediately after the disaster by the Snohomish County Helicopter Rescue Team, which posted footage of the rescue on its Facebook page. Jacob apparently was on the second floor of the home when the mudslide began.
However, Spillers, his two daughters, Kaylee and Brooke, and stepson, Jovon, remain missing. Spillers’ wife, Jonielle, was not home at the time of the disaster.
Elias said search crews have found some of Spillers’ items from the Navy, such as books and bags.
“We’re still holding out hope,” said Elias, who still lives in the Canonsburg area with her husband, Adam, and two children. “Hopefully it’s is still possible.”
In addition to Elias, Crystal Martincic, Daja Durkacs and Tiffany Hinerman are helping to organize Friday night’s candlelight vigil. About 200 candles will be provided, although people can bring their own if they choose.
“We’re expecting a big turnout because he is such an amazing person,” Elias said.