VIDEO UPDATE: Search for Kilmer now in the air and on the water

Dewi Griffiths and Shawnene Nicholls of Cowichan SAR brief members of several search and rescue groups on what is planned for the day early Saturday morning. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
Searchers check final details before heading out. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
Shawnene Nicholls talks to volunteers who are not SAR members about how they will be working. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
Shawnene Nicholls is one of the crew at search headquarters handling logistics Saturday. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

The search for Ben Kilmer, 41, missing since Wednesday, May 16, moved into even higher gear Saturday, May 19.

Rumours were flying around the Cowichan Valley Saturday afternoon that the search had been called off but Cowichan Search and Rescue’s Shauneen Nichols, of Cowichan Search and Rescue logistics manager for the search, said that even more people were now involved.

Shawnene Nicholls updates search Saturday

Such rumours were “definitely premature,” she said.

“We have got teams in the field. We have now put a swiftwater team into the [Cowichan River] to cover off the river from Skutz Falls to White Bridge. As well, the RCMP are putting up their helicopter in the air again to cover off some high interest areas and to cover off the river.”

Any special reason the river is being targeted?

“This was a favourite area of Ben’s so they want to thoroughly cover that off as well.”

The effort had more than 60 search members in the field as Nichols was speaking “as well as our swiftwater team and, of course, we’ll have a team in the air as well.”

Earlier her cry had been “Today, we bring Ben Kilmer home!” as searchers assembled for the day’s work.

Overnight Friday, May 18, Cowichan SAR moved its search headquarters to the field behind the Sahtlam Fire Hall, just a short distance west of the place on Cowichan Lake Road, east of Menzies where they’d been working from Thursday and Friday.

Dewi Griffiths joined Nichols in leading the 8:30 a.m. briefing for all the searchers, who included personnel from Cowichan, Salt Spring Island, Metchosin, and Peninsula SAR teams plus the Ladysmith-Cowichan Swiftwater team.

READ MORE: Blood found in missing man’s vehicle

Leaders give searchers their orders before they head out to look for missing Ben Kilmer on Friday morning. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

There were also a good number of members of the public who showed up to help out in the search.

The search is now moving more towards the Cowichan River, and the combing of the area that had been grid-searched yesterday is now complete. Plans were being made to get the searchers access to the river as needed.

Kilmer, 41, vanished Wednesday. His white van was found, still running, by the side of Cowichan Lake Road and by late that same night a search had been launched. On Thursday, more teams from across the Island joined the effort.

There has been a concerted effort among the public, too, as friends and family wait for Kilmer’s return.

“This man was really loved. We all know that,” said Nichols as she encouraged the SAR crews.

GoFundMe page launched by friends to fund helicopter

Friends of Kilmer’s family have now setup a GoFundMe page, looking to raise enough funds for a private helicopter to help with the ongoing search efffort.

In a post on Facebook, Tonya, Kilmer’s wife urged anyone who could to come and help with the search.

“I believe in every ounce of my being that we are close,” she said.

“I need drones, helicopters, planes!! Anything and everything! He is there!”

Ben Kilmer has been missing since Wednesday evening in the Cowichan Valley. (Facebook)

With files from Ashley Wadhwani

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