Kelsey Linning, a friend of Ben Kilmer and his family, made a statement to the press just before noon on Friday, as the search enters its third day for the missing father of two.
Linning said the family is urging anyone in the public who wants to help with the search to head down and look around the Cowichan River, as it is a large area that official search and rescue crews will not be able to reach. She reminded everyone to dress appropriately and bring water and other emergency supplies.
Volunteers from a number of search and rescue teams in the Cowichan Valley worked until 11 p.m. Thursday night and began again this morning, searching for Kilmer. Friends from Victoria arrived at the base early Friday morning, anxious to help.
“The search has been expanded and they’ll be going back over some of the area previously covered,” Cowichan SAR manager Patty Abbott said at about 6:30 Friday morning, as she awaited the arrival of an RCMP search dog and more volunteers.
Kilmer, 41, was last seen on Wednesday afternoon but mysteriously disappeared. His work van was found on Lake Cowichan Road on the outskirts of Duncan.
The RCMP were called to investigate the van, as it had been parked on the side of the road with its motor running, but no sign of the driver.
Volunteers with the Cowichan SAR team were then organized and a search of the surrounding area began within an hour.
“The minute the pagers go off someone is responding,” Abbott explained. “Four managers have pagers and typically we can be on the scene within an hour.”
The Cowichan SAR has 30 active members and is in the process of training another 15 candidates. SAR responds to between 25 and 30 emergencies a year, Abbott says.
Dozens of people in Canada go missing every day but not all generate a search response of this magnitude.
“This is different because we have his last known area. Yes, he could be anywhere, but at least we have a starting point.”
Search and rescue personnel from Cowichan, Ladysmith, Juan de Fuca, Nanaimo, Saltspring Island and the Saanich Peninsula are all involved with the operation.
The volunteers are searching an area in the Menzies Road/Cowichan Lake Road area on the outskirts of Duncan. It is mostly privately owned land, heavily-treed but with a number of residences.
If you have any information on the whereabouts of Benjamin Kilmer, contact the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP at 250-748-5522 or if you wish to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).