Members from the Ahousaht community converge on Bartlett Island for one of the daily searches for Travis Thomas on Sept 11. (Keith Atleo photo)
Hope remains alive in the search for a missing 40-year-old Ahousaht man, Travis Thomas, as community members make daily trips to nearby Bartlett Island to sit with family or to assist in the search of the small, rugged island.
It was in early August when Thomas, a father of four, arrived at the island, about a 20-minute boat ride from Ahousaht. He had been camping alone when he was reported missing Aug. 9. The last confirmed contact with Thomas was on Aug. 7, on Bartlett Island.
The R.C.M.P., Tofino Search and Rescue, the Ahousaht Emergency Response Team and the Canadian Coast Guard were all involved in the initial search. The island was searched thoroughly by ground, air and water, with no success.
The R.C.M.P. has been to the island with the RCMP Police Dog Service. On Aug. 30 the R.C.M.P. dog team returned to the island to search the beaches, with negative results.
"We are very concerned about the safety of Travis Thomas and are doing everything we can to locate him,” said Sgt. Todd Pebernat, Ahousaht RCMP. "Our search is unfortunately very difficult given the island's extremely dense forest and brush area. It has made it difficult for ground searchers to probe thoroughly into these regions of the island".
More than a month has passed since Thomas was reported missing, but the community has not given up hope. Daily searches have resulted in some volunteers reporting sightings of Thomas at various locations around the perimeter of the island. But the island is steep and rocky in places, covered in dense forest and underbrush and riddled with rock crevices and caves.
Thomas’ parents and elderly grandfather are at the island as much as they can be, searching by boat or on foot. Volunteers join them, bushwhacking through the dense forest or combing the beaches.
Volunteers in the community cook meals made from donated food while others take part in prayer vigils.
With school back in session, high school students have been given permission of parents and teachers to assist with the search.
As temperatures are dropping, the family is anxious to locate Thomas as soon as possible. They are exhausted but grateful for the help they are receiving.
Travis Damon Thomas is described as a 40-year-old Aboriginal male, 180 centimetres (5 feet, 11 inches), 79 kilograms (175 pounds), with black hair and brown eyes. He has several tattoos on his chest and arm.
Reported sightings are being followed up on. Anyone who has any information about Travis Thomas’ whereabouts is asked to contact the Ahousaht RCMP Detachment at 250-670-9612 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.