I have to admit, this is a tough topic for me. I remember the drive and passion my dad put into this call. From the first day of searching in December, he was committed to finding Tom. Failure was not an option for my father, and he put 110% into investigating and leading the search.
Links on initial search:
When the initial search concluded with snow falling and without any sign of Tom, we were all perplexed. This young man packed his bags for a hike, left his home stay, and headed to the North Shore and virtually disappeared. Where is he? While many would have stopped there, my father had made the commitment to Tom’s family. There was no stronger driving force in Tim Jones’ life than the drive to help others, especially those in pain.
We had a pretty good idea that he had headed to the North Shore from the Police investigation, but were seriously lacking clues and moving past the period of hope to find someone alive. So fast forward to Christmas morning, my father and I were sitting in the living room, drinking a mimosa (family tradition), chatting about the search. Off handedly I suggested a crowd sourced search method utilizing cameras and a helicopter to generate interest and leads. I could see the gears turning in his head (I remember it well), and within seconds he was on the phone with Mark Miller, producer of Highway Through Hell and Air Show, securing technical expertise. Moments after that, was on the phone getting approvals for flight time.
Literally the next day we were rigging Talon Helicopters AS350B2 with cameras and flying the high probability areas, assisted by recent rain that had melted some snow. I was on my short break from law school, and my father on holidays from work, but there was no question that we would be spending the rest of our holiday searching for Tom.
Ultimately, the publicity this technique generated paid off, with two members of the public coming forward and giving reliable info that isolated Tom’s last sighting to the Lynn Headwaters/Hanes area. This info allowed us to extend the search right into January. Unfortunately, with more snow on the ground we eventually had to suspend the search again. I can’t emphasize enough how committed my father was to finding Tom and bringing his family closure. He took this call personally and put himself in the shoes of the parents to provide the drive to keep searching. Words to properly describe the sadness escape me, but this was followed in January by the untimely passing of my father. However, his mission to find Tom remained.
Links on Crowd Sourced Search:
Fast forward to the Spring/Summer, members took it upon their own initiative to head up into the area and conduct searches. On calls, we always made a point to take a couple extra passes over the area. Ultimately, the area received extensive coverage both by land and air. Still with no sign of Tom.
This October, NSR conducted it’s final mission to locate Mr. Billings, bringing together over 40 SAR volunteers to scour the high probability area above the Hanes helipad. Again, no sign.
Now the official mission is closed pending high likelihood evidence arising. One day, NSR or a member of the public, will find Tom, but until that day I ask that we all remain vigilant when we head out into the North Shore back-country.
I have included the thank-you from the Billings family below:
Tom, our beloved son, disappeared on 25 November 2013.
We are utterly devastated and miss him so badly.
The efforts made by North Shore Rescue to locate Tom in the backcountry have been one of the things that has kept us going.
First Tim Jones and, following Tim’s sad loss, Mike Danks have led a determined mission which has given us so much inspiration.
Bruce has done so much. Paul and Alex; so many others. It would not be right to try to single anyone out. All of the volunteers who have gone out to look for Tom, who have recorded where they have searched, either on co-ordinated missions or private hiking trips into the mountains have played a huge part. Those we have spoken to at NSR training sessions, or shared a meal with afterwards, or have said hello when they have seen us in North Vancouver. Everyone from NSR and the volunteers from Coquitlam Search and Rescue and Lions Bay SAR who searched on 4 October.
After the huge efforts made by all of you on Saturday, and the pilots at Talon Helicopters, the outcome was not what anyone had hoped. But the job could not have been done any better.
This is a thank you to everyone. You have made a difference to our lives by helping and by caring.
You are all remarkable people and Tim would have been truly proud of all of you.
Martin and Laura Billings