Why This Toronto Firefighter May Never Know What Happened On His Puzzling Journey Across the U.S.

On Feb. 2, 2018, Danny Filippidis went on a ski trip to Lake Placid, New York. He briefly left his friends at the Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort to retrieve his cellphone from his car, and no one saw him again. His disappearance sparked a massive search. Six days later, Danny showed up in Sacramento, Calif., with no idea how he got there. He says he believes he lost consciousness sometime shortly after splitting up with the others in his party. He doesn’t remember much about the next few days, but believes he flagged down a truck to get a ride off the mountain. The next thing he remembered was the truck’s driver telling him he was in Utah, more than 1,800 miles from Whiteface Mountain. He eventually got a new phone, but it took about a day for him to remember his wife’s number. Once Danny returned home safe, questions and rampant speculation swirled around his cross-country journey. The supposed truck driver who transported him to Sacramento could hold the keys to the mystery, but authorities were unable to identify the driver. Dr. Charles Tator, a brain surgeon at Toronto Western Hospital’s Canadian Concussion Centre, said Danny’s story likely describes amnesia resulting from a concussion, but he would have to examine Danny to get a better sense of what might have happened. He speculated that it could be a combination of retrograde amnesia — loss of memory of events before a blow to the head — and anterograde amnesia — loss of memory of events after a blow to the head. Loss of memory can last anywhere from a few seconds to 24-48 hours in length. Dr. Tator said many patients with longer-term amnesia never fully recover their lost memories, but fragments might return as much as 2-3 years later. Now, some 5 years later, there is still no clear answer to what exactly happened to Danny or the mystery person who drove him across the U.S. He is back at work as captain with Toronto Fire Services and hasn’t suffered any lasting physical damage from the incident.