THE family of missing hiker Tom Billings flew to Canada to thank the volunteers who are continuing to search for him.
The 22-year-old backpacker from Boars Hill has not been seen since he set off on a short mountain trek in Vancouver in November.
Canadian police halted the search in January and efforts were suspended until the snow cleared.
Now, as the snow is melting, the former Cokethorpe School pupil’s father Martin, mother Laura and sister Harriet have visited the North Shore Rescue team who have checked dangerous terrain and spent hundreds of hours searching for him.
Mr Billings, below, 52, said: “All those people are volunteers and they risked their lives to help us. There is a lot you don’t get out of writing a letter or penning an email that you do get out of a face to face meeting.
“It seemed such an incredible thing they have done and are continuing to do.
“We wish it hadn’t been necessary but I feel humbled that there are people out there who do these sorts of things.”
During their visit last week, the family walked some of the route Tom may have taken before he disappeared.
Mr Billings, a lawyer with Milton Park based BrookStreet des Roches, said: “One thing you don’t get from the pictures is the sense of scale of the place.
“In some sense the piece of news I would really like to get is that every stone has been turned over and someone could say with absolute certainty that wherever Tom was he was not there.
“We would like there to be some explanation which involved Tom being somewhere else and doing something else. It is a possibility but a very faint possibility.
“I still every day look out of the window and think it would be really nice if Tom was walking up the path.”
North Shore Rescue spokesman Martin Danks said: “At the present time there is still snow in the Hanes Valley that is preventing us from continuing the ground search for Tom.
Images from the helicopter search
“However, NSR as a team is very motivated to continue looking for Tom when we are in the area on another task or a maintenance run to one of our many caches in the back country.
“It was a pleasure meeting with the Billings family last week as over the past year we have established a very close relationship with them.”
The family visited Vancouver Police and gave blood DNA samples for the force to use.
Vancouver Police spokesman Brian Montague said: “The North Shore Search and Rescue are regularly on the mountains for training and to look for individuals that have run into trouble or are lost.”
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