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Police end search for missing man in Youbou

Police end search for missing man in Youbou
Police end search for missing man in Youbou

Cowichan Search and Rescue was told to stand down after a week-long, large-scale search for Nicholas Marion, 38, by land, sea and air.

The search for a 38-year-old Victoria man who went missing in Youbou over Canada Day weekend has been called off by the RCMP.

Nicholas Marion was last seen on June 30 at 6:30 a.m. when he left a family friend’s home at 11439 Youbou Rd. after saying he was going for a walk.

According to his wife, Dory Marion, he left without a cell phone, wallet or jacket.

Cowichan Search and Rescue launched a large-scale search by land, air and water, but was told to stop by the RCMP on Saturday evening.

An operational base at the Pine Point Campground, across from the house where the couple was staying, has since been dismantled.

According to Jamie Tudway-Cains, director and search manager of Cowichan Search and Rescue, searches were conducted every day from 6 a.m. until sunset in the area where Nicholas Marion was last seen, but few clues were found.

In the early days of the search, cameras were checked on homes and other buildings in the area, as well as off-island transportation, including BC Ferries, airports, buses and highways.

The area where Nicholas Marion was last seen was searched from the ground with dogs in a circular pattern and from the air with helicopters.

In the latter part of the week, nearby waters were flooded with boats and drones.

The decision to suspend the search was a joint decision involving Cowichan Search and Rescue and the family, but ultimately it is the RCMP’s decision, Tudway-Cains said.

“I can’t even imagine how the family feels,” he said, adding that it’s also difficult for the searchers.

“From a seeker’s standpoint, this is by far one of the most difficult things we’ve had to deal with… We’ve been working on it for seven days straight.”

For the past two days, a Major Incident Stress Management Team has been present at the command center to support searchers who were forced to abandon their search without resolution.

“I have no doubt that we have the area well covered and that at some point the RCMP will have to pull back. There are a lot of resources that go into a search like this.”

Dory Marion said on social media Monday that the search will continue despite the official search being called off.

She said family and friends are having to “reorganize and restrategize,” requiring “more volunteers than ever.”

“Don’t forget Nick,” she said. “Please don’t give up hope that we will find him and that he will be healthy and confused, but not gone. He is a loving, kind husband and friend, he is a gift to this world and he has so much more to share with us.

“Let’s find him and bring him home. I refuse to think he’s lost forever.”

Marion asks people to hike the first search area between the Pine Point and Maple Grove campgrounds and beyond.

She advises volunteer searchers to walk in pairs, track their walks with a GPS tracker such as maps.me, stay hydrated and dress appropriately. She is also asking for donations via gofundme to help bring in specialized search teams.

Tudway-Cains said the entire community, including family and friends of the missing man, assisted in the search.

“I think it’s often quite surprising to families how often the community comes together to do these kinds of things,” he said. “It has to help.”

Cowichan Search and Rescue searchers were given an air-conditioned space in the Youbou Fire Department lobby for a week to help them recover from the heat. Local businesses, including Country Grocer and Tim Hortons, provided refreshments.

“They were all there for us with food and water,” Tudway-Cains said. “It’s just a huge help. I can’t thank them enough.”

Tudway-Cains said the conclusion of the official search is not necessarily the end of the road for searchers. “We could be called back today, next week or next year.”

In the meantime, search and rescue members will be training in the area, looking for clues, Tudway-Cains said. It is not unusual for search and rescue teams to train in an area where a search has not yet been completed.

“We are absolutely not ruling out closure. We have had searches where we have had closure 10 years after the fact. There could still be a happy ending.”

Sebastian Thuot, Marion’s stepson, said in an interview Monday that eight days of walking more than 20 kilometers through the bush, organizing a search and “dealing with really intense emotions” have exhausted much of the family, although Nicholas Marion’s father, cousin and sister are still in the area spreading the news about their missing relative.

The end of the official search opens the possibility for independent search teams, he said. “We have a lot of friends of Nick who are really eager to get out there and do some work to spread the word.”

Thuot said he and mother Dory Marion returned to Victoria on Sunday. “We’re all still hopeful that maybe we’ll find some answers,” he said. “We’re hoping he gets out of the bushes somewhere or walks out of the trailer or ends up somewhere safe, but we just need to know what happened.”

Thuot says that not knowing what happened in a way postpones the grieving process.

The family hopes new clues will be found over the summer, he said, noting that the area where he was last seen is one of the most heavily trafficked on Vancouver Island.

A Facebook group has been set up to coordinate the search, but tips and possible sightings should be passed on to the Lake Cowichan RCMP or local police, Thuot said.

Nicholas Marion is about 6 feet tall and weighs about 170 pounds. He has black hair, brown eyes, and a short beard.

He was last seen wearing a black T-shirt, black sweatpants and black retro Nike Air Jordan 11 sneakers.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact the Lake Cowichan RCMP at 250-749-6668.

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