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Walk for Carlo

Dozens honor fallen NMU student at Yellow Dog River

MARQUETTE — Dozens of people, some who had never met each other before Saturday morning, came together at the Yellow Dog River to pay their respects to fallen Northern Michigan University biology student and wildlife photographer Guiancarlo “Carlo” Bayot Estupigan.

The 25-year-old died from exposure on Jan. 27 after getting caught in a snowstorm near the river he called “home,” just south of Big Bay.

Dr. Rolando Estupigan, Carlo’s father, said his son had found a home in the wilds of the Upper Peninsula.

“This was Carlo’s classroom,” Estupigan said as attendees hiked single file down to the Yellow Dog Falls. “It wasn’t inside a building at the university, it was here.”

He said the family was not able to get all the way back to the Yellow Dog Falls in March following a memorial service for Carlo at NMU because snow left on the ground made the path impassable at the time.

“We came here, we walked in, (but) not too far,” Estupigan said.

Local photographer Steve Lindberg said even though he and Carlo had “a couple of generations” between them, the two struck up a friendship.

“He was walking down the trail and was carrying a camera and a lens–which is the same camera and lens that I have, so we struck up a conversation,” Lindberg said. “He (was) just a delightful young man, passionate about outdoor photography, and it’s a passion that we shared. It was so much fun being with him and watching him and he was one hell of a wildlife photographer.”

Carlo was genuine and very much liked by his fellow students as well, said one of his lab partners, Sam Phillips.

“I loved his sense of humor,” said Phillips. “He was just so funny and really positive to be around. He never seemed to be in a bad mood and he never let a bad thing get to him. He was always raising everybody up.”

Marquette County Search and Rescue team member Steve Sharrett said he had gone out for dinner for his birthday when the call came in on his pager that an NMU student was missing and his car was parked near the Yellow Dog River.

“We got out here and it was 22 or 23 (degrees) below zero. We searched late into the night and then we resumed the search the next couple of days,” Sharrett said. “It was extremely cold, never got to zero those days.”

Several local entities and volunteers were involved in the search, including Michigan Department of Natural Resources officers from across the Upper Peninsula, the Michigan State Police K-9 Unit, the MSP Aviation Helicopter Unit, Rescue 131 and Powell Township 161.

“We looked everywhere, these guys are totally dedicated. And the community was just phenomenal, it just didn’t turn out the way we wanted. But there was closure.”

Sharrett said the Estupigan family traveled to Marquette on the second day of the search.

“We had a chance to pray with the family,” Sharrett said. “His father, the next day, he asked me, ‘Do you think my son’s alive?’ And I asked him, ‘Are you asking me as a member of the sheriff’s department or as a father?’ And he said, ‘as a father.’ I said ‘No, I don’t think he is.’ Then we both hugged and cried.”

Carlo’s father said coming to the place where his son died was difficult.

“I think his spirit is here, you know. He knew this place. He was strong, but, the snow was his biggest enemy,” Estupigan said. “It wasn’t altitude or height, it was the snow.”

Guian Estupigan, Carlo’s brother, said while going to the place where Carlo passed away was difficult for the family, it would also bring some sense of closure for those who cared about him.

“I think it’s just, being in a place that he really loved being at, with nature,” Guian said, “and having all of these people here for him, it feels good. I think it will be good to see what he saw.”

Carlo’s camera was brought to the site as well. His uncle Ryan Bayot carried it through the woods in an effort to snap photos of the rushing water.

“We were surprised that it is still working after that many nights here buried under the snow,” Bayot said. “I think it’s a full circle that we are trying to complete for him. We came out here to take pictures of the falls so that we can fulfill his intentions. He wouldn’t have it any other way. We want to honor him, we are going to do him right.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.