Ben Kilmer, 41, was has been missing since Wednesday morning. (Submitted)

Search area expands as crews look for Ben Kilmer

Operation will continue into Saturday evening and resume on Sunday morning

Teams looking for Ben Kilmer have covered a great deal of ground, but the search is far from over.

The 41-year-old Cobble Hill man was last seen on Wednesday morning, and an operation led by Cowichan Search and Rescue has been scouring the Sahtlam area since that time, working into the evening on Saturday.

“We’ve almost exhausted inside the initial area,” search manager Tina Phillips said from the SAR command trailer outside the Sahtlam Fire Hall.

The search area expanded on Saturday evening as crews prepared to work until dusk, and was set to grow again on Sunday morning when the search resumes at 8 a.m.

Tips about Kilmer’s whereabouts have been pouring in from the public. The RCMP have been following up on them, with some being forwarded to SAR.

RELATED: Search for Kilmer now in the air and on the water

As of late Saturday afternoon, 59 members from eight different Vancouver Island SAR teams — Cowichan, Peninsula, Saltspring, Juan de Fuca, Ladysmith, Metchosin, Saanich and Nanaimo — had taken part in the search, along with 92 volunteers from the community, many of whom are friends and family of Kilmer.

“Some volunteers are going with SAR,” Phillips explained. “They are screened for fitness and proper gear, and then they join up with one of our search teams.”

Other volunteers have been helping to transport SAR members.

“They’ve been volunteering to drive our members around, which is great,” Phillips said. “We don’t want to use trained searchers to be drivers.”

A swift water team has also been searching the Cowichan River.

This being a long weekend, campers are encouraged to also keep an eye out for Kilmer.

“Anybody out camping in the Cowichan Valley should take a look around where they are,” Phillips said.

SAR members have been going door-to-door asking neighbours if they may have spotted Kilmer. Neighbours with security cameras are asked to look at footage after 11 a.m. on Wednesday to see if they recorded someone fitting Kilmer’s description.

“If he was to have walked away, someone may have caught him on their security cameras,” Phillips said.

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).

Two separate GoFundMe accounts have been set up to assist with the search, and both have been confirmed as legitimate by the Find Ben Kilmer Facebook page. They are at https://www.gofundme.com/utbd3f-bring-ben-home and https://ca.gofundme.com/find-ben-kilmer.

According to Phillips, Kilmer is an experienced outdoorsman, “strong and fit,” who enjoys climbing, camping and hiking.

“He may have walked away just to get away from people for a while,” she said.

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