HOUSTON – Nearly a week after the deadly mudslide in Washington state, friends of Billy Spillers are holding out hope the 2001 Chartiers-Houston graduate will be found alive.
Friends, former classmates, teachers and coaches gathered at the Chartiers-Houston High School football stadium Friday night in honor of Spillers, an all-conference defensive end and basketball player for the Buccaneers, who is still missing.
“Billy was very well-liked by his classmates and he was an outstanding athlete,” said Spillers’ former head coach, John Haught. “He was the kind of kid that you could see was going to have a good life and make a good career for himself, and he’s done that. It’s a shame that a tragedy like this happened. But I don’t think anybody’s going to give up hope here. You hear of people surviving earthquakes and other disasters for weeks if they find an air pocket, so anything is possible.”
Earlier Friday, a medical examiner confirmed that Spillers’ 5-year-old daughter Kaylee was among those who had died in the massive mudslide that flattened dozens of homes. At least 26 people have died, and 90 are missing.
Spillers left Washington County shortly after he graduated, moving to northeastern Pennsylvania with his mother, and then he joined the U.S. Navy. He was working as a chief petty officer at the naval station in Everett, Wash.
He still has several friends here, including Briana Elias, who talked with Spillers less that a week before the landslide and Crystal Martincic, who, along with Elias and many other friends, organized the vigil.
“He always lifted your spirits, he would always make you smile. He’s a great guy. He had nothing bad to say about anybody ever,” said Martincic. “We will not lose hope until we find something out. We hope, we pray, and we have faith.”
As the crowd held white candles, the Rev. Scott Bunting, pastor of Chartiers Crossroads Church, led them in prayer and vocalist Vicky Andreis played guitar and sang hymns. Bunting said he believes Spillers is alive and will be found.
Spillers’ 4-year-old son, Jacob, who apparently was on the second floor of the home when the mudslide hit, was found by rescuers shortly after the disaster.
Two of Spillers’ other children, 13-year-old Jovon, and 2-year-old Brooke, are still missing. Spillers’ wife, Jonielle, was at work at the time.
Spillers’ friends have started an online fundraiser for Spillers’ family, and a donation jar and yellow ribbons made by Martincic’s mother, Sandy Mayersky, along with friends Trudy Fittro and B.J. Greenawalt and sold for $1, raised additional money.
“Billy’s one of the most kind-hearted, nicest people you will ever meet,” said Elias. “We have faith that he and his children will be found.”