The family of 81-year-old missing Bowser man James Roberts will continue looking, but the “professionals have left the area,” Cpl. Jesse Foreman of the Oceanside RCMP said of the massive search and rescue effort.
Roberts, suffering with dementia, was last seen at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, leaving his home near the Lighthouse Community Centre along Lions Way.
“He left his residence, he had a bag of popcorn,” Arrowsmith Search and Rescue (ASAR) search manager Joe Kinch said. “He goes down to one certain spot to feed the birds, basically across from his trailer… and that was it, he never came home.”
“The bush is so thick. They’ve got a beautiful trail system up there. He used to walk the trails all the time, but always with other people, but once you leave the trails, oh man I’ll tell ya, it is so thick, there’s broom, salal, devil’s club. Our searchers did a heck of a job, but we just couldn’t find any evidence of him in any direction.”
Kinch said along with a 442 squadron helicopter, two dog teams and two horse-mounted searchers, they had help from all six mid-Island search groups from Cowichan to Campbell River.
“The 62 searchers we had out Saturday was the most professional searchers we’ve ever had at one time,” he said, adding that a total of more than 140 searchers took part over the four days before the search was called off Sunday afternoon.
“That’s the toughest decision searchers ever have to make,” Kinch said, explaining that many different experts and agencies are involved in the decision.
He said they had “covered all the best probability areas at least twice, sometimes four times,” and they couldn’t justify repeatedly searching the same areas without any leads or evidence.
Kinch said that, like on previous cases, ASAR will use their regular training and practice sessions to continue looking for Roberts. He said they did that for 58-year-old Richard Norman who went missing around Englishman River Falls Provincial Park almost exactly a year earlier and has not been found.
“Obviously we’re in constant communication with the family and any leads or tips we get we’ll follow up immediately,” said Cpl. Foreman adding “there are no boots on the ground,” but it is still an active file.
Anyone with information should call the Oceanside RCMP at 250-248-6111.