Ben Kilmer, 41, has been missing since his van was found running in the Sahltam area last Wednesday. (Submitted)

SAR scaling back in Kilmer search, but friends will keep looking

Search for 41-year-old Cobble Hill dad hits six-day mark

Cowichan Search and Rescue’s role in the search for Ben Kilmer is winding down, but the missing Cobble Hill dad’s family and friends are vowing to continue looking.

SAR personnel brought Kilmer’s family in on Monday evening to review the map and discuss the search. The result was a plan to scale back the active search.

“We decided to suspend the search for the evening and review some things tomorrow,” search manager Tina Phillips said as she waited for the last teams to report in from the field on Monday evening. “If there’s a reason for us to be out tomorrow, we will be back.”

Well over a dozen other SAR units from across Vancouver Island have taken part in the search for the 41-year-old Kilmer since he was reported missing last Wednesday, but Phillips confirmed that Cowichan won’t be calling on volunteers from other districts after the long weekend.

RELATED: Still no sign of missing father in Cowichan Valley

The search area has covered 16.6 square kilometres, the 75th percentile of area for missing people who fit Kilmer’s profile. Places beyond that have also been searched by SAR and other volunteer teams from the community, including the Bear Creek Caves, where Cowichan SAR was involved in a rescue in February of this year after a hiker fell in.

Thirty-five SAR members were involved in the search on Monday, and well over 100 other people, including family, friends and other community members signed in as “convergent volunteers.”

“Maybe even a bit more than yesterday,” said Lindsay Pearson, a friend of Kilmer’s who has served as a liaison between the convergent volunteers and SAR.

RELATED: Friends and family playing huge role in Kilmer search

Convergent volunteers have been going door-to-door speaking to Sahtlam-area residents. If they get permission, teams are being sent out to search properties, checking out-buildings and sheds, and under decks and tarps.

“Most of the community has been pretty open to that,” Pearson said. “Most people are good about it.”

A drone has been out searching properties from above, and a Victoria-based company that does aerial photography has assisted. Posters have been put up as far away as Oak Bay, Victoria and Port Alberni.

Kilmer’s wife, Tonya, remained heavily involved in the search on Monday.

“She’s buzzing with ideas, listening to her instincts,” Pearson said.

The couple’s two young kids were at the site again today, and their presence kept the volunteers optimistic.

“They had a water-balloon fight, which helped keep the mood light,” Pearson said.

Police are still receiving and investigating tips, Phillips noted, and SAR will follow up on any deemed worth looking into. Residents of the Sahtlam area are encouraged to look around their homes, as well.

“We implore people to check their properties,” Phillips said. “Some people will be coming back from the weekend, and may not be aware of this.”

Pearson acknowledged that the convergent volunteer numbers could be effected by the end of the long weekend, but vowed that she and many others would stay on.

“We’re not too sure what to expect,” she said. “We will be here tomorrow. Anyone who can be will be. We will go until we bring him home.”

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).

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