Convergent volunteers discuss the search for 41-year-old Cobble Hill dad Ben Kilmer on Sunday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Convergent volunteers discuss the search for 41-year-old Cobble Hill dad Ben Kilmer on Sunday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Friends and family playing huge role in search for Cobble Hill man

Volunteers from the public join forces with SAR crews

NOTE: See below for key links and information

Cowichan Search and Rescue is coordinating the massive search for Ben Kilmer in the Sahtlam area west of Duncan, but their efforts have been bolstered by a huge number of what are known as “convergent volunteers” — friends, family and other community members who are dedicating countless hours to the search.

“They’re an amazing, amazing group,” search manager Shauneen Nichols said.

Many of the volunteers know Kilmer and his wife Tonya, including sisters Lindsay Pearson and Tiffany Goebel, from Victoria, who have been friends of the couple for 20 years. They have both been at the site since Thursday afternoon. They started out searching, but have since taken other roles: Pearson as a liaison between SAR and the family and friends, and Goebel running the Find Ben Kilmer Facebook page, among other duties.

On Saturday alone, 119 convergent volunteers signed in at the Sahtlam Fire Hall, where the search is being coordinated. Others, including some using ATVs and dirt bikes, checked the hills and river valley independent of the two coordinated searches.

More volunteers are always welcome to help out.

“We’re not turning people away,” Goebel insisted.

Those who can’t take part in the active ground search can assist by printing out and posting flyers (a PDF is available on the Find Ben Kilmer Facebook page), or check the Facebook page for other ways to help out.

There are a lot of larger properties in the Sahtlam area, and if for some reason the owner is unable to search the entirety, the owner should contact the organizers on Facebook or visit the headquarters at the Sahtlam Fire Hall (4384 Cowichan Lake Rd.) any time between 8:30 a.m. and dusk, and they will send a party to search.

RELATED: SAR reinforcements from up Island arrive Sunday to help search for Ben Kilmer

RELATED: Search area expands as crews look for Ben Kilmer

Pearson and Goebel have also been in touch with Tonya Kilmer, who has been on the ground searching with other team members since day one.

“She’s good,” Pearson said. “She has moments, of course. What keeps her going in the support. She’s driven; she hones in on a task that needs to be done. She brought their kids in today. They’re helping to keep her going.”

Volunteers are being provided with gloves, safety kits and food that have been donated by individuals and businesses from around the Island. Items line camping chairs, signs and posters have also been donated. The reach has gone far beyond B.C.’s borders as well, with a volunteer in Ottawa organizing the sign campaign, and at least one man driving from as far as Calgary do help with the ground search.

Nichols believes the outdoorsy nature of the Kilmers and their age — Ben is 41 — are factors in bringing in active friends and family to assist with the operation.

“It’s unusual for us,” she admitted. “I’ve experienced this on the short term but this is just amazing, to see it day in and day out.”

SAR has been working in a tight circle around the area where Kilmer’s van was found, but convergent volunteers can search other places, including places that are important to Kilmer, like Skutz Falls, which is where he and his wife met, and were he later proposed to her, and cabins he helped build on Heather Mountain and on the Nitinat River. Volunteer crews can bring in clues that are screened, and if it’s determined that they are significant, SAR looks into it the next day.

The convergent volunteers have shown remarkable dedication.

“We had a group that came in at 11:30 last night, just reporting that they were out of the field,” Nichols noted. “It’s incredible assistance because we just don’t have the manpower.”

Nichols also expressed her thanks to the Sahtlam community, the Sahtlam Volunteer Fire Department, and the families of SAR members for being so understanding when their loved ones have committed a long weekend to the search.

“We couldn’t do it without family,” she emphasized.

Some 72 members from SAR organizations across Vancouver Island were involved in the search on Sunday. The crews planned to be back in action again Monday morning, starting around 9 a.m.

KEY LINKS AND INFORMATION:

Find Ben Kilmer Facebook page

Sahtlam Fire Hall address (search headquarters): 4384 Cowichan Lake Rd.

GoFundMe accounts (all verified with search organizers):

https://ca.gofundme.com/find-ben-kilmer

https://ca.gofundme.com/find-ben-kilmer/donate

https://ca.gofundme.com/utbd3f-bring-ben-home

Ben Kilmer is described as 5-foot-10 and 180 lbs, with short brown hair and blue eyes. When last seen, he was clean-shaven and wearing light-coloured pants, a black shirt and steel-toed work boots. Anyone who has seen him or has information about his whereabouts should contact the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP at 250-748-5522 or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Just Posted

Inmates at Metchosin’s William Head Institution are being given COVID-19 vaccines as part of the first phase. Around 600 inmates will be vaccinated in the coming days. (Black Press Media file photo)
William Head prison inmates in receive first doses of COVID vaccine

Priority set for older inmates and those with underlying medical conditions

A mattress on fire gutted the second floor hallway at Town Park Apartments C-block Jan. 17. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue images)
‘Suspicious’ Port Hardy apartment fire could keep tenants out of their homes for months

A burning mattress created smoke and heat, causing several tenants to jump from windows

A pinniped was attacked by an unseen predator off the shores of Dallas Road Monday night. (Courtesy of Steffani Cameron)
VIDEO: Seal hunting, not being hunted in video shot off Dallas Road

Victoria woman captures footage of pinniped activity off Dallas Road

Egg producers in B.C. aren’t obligated to reveal their production sites. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Officials say there’s not enough Vancouver Island eggs to meet demand

BC Egg Marketing Board doesn’t regulate labelling, supply needed from off-Island

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

A water taxi at Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man arrested after stolen water taxi raced up Victoria’s Gorge Waterway

Man is facing recommended charges of theft over $5,000 after leading police on marine chase

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

Workers prepare to take down 28 large trees on private property on Mill Bay Road this week after they were intentionally poisoned almost two years ago. (Submitted photo)
Still no charges over poisoning of trees in Mill Bay

It’s been almost two years since incident involving 28 large trees

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

Nanaimo RCMP are investigating after a threat was made at Woodgrove Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 19. (News Bulletin file photo)
Threat directed at Nanaimo mall, RCMP investigating

Police have searched areas of Woodgrove Centre accessible to shoppers and have deemed it safe

A new video from NCCIH and BC Northern Health titled ‘Healing in Pandemic Times: Indigenous Peoples, Stigma and COVID-19’ was animated by Joanne Gervais. (Photo Provided By: NCCIH Archives)
VIDEO: Stigma against Indigenous people is a ‘social sickness’

A new short animated video is aiming to educate the public on the stigmatization

Most Read