Search for missing tourist Tom Billings called off by weather
Women report a man matching description of Billings near Lynn Headwaters on Nov. 25
The search for missing British tourist Tom Billings was called off on Sunday because of deteriorating weather conditions on Vancouver's North Shore.
Search and rescue crews combed B.C.'s North Shore mountains on Sunday after two women reported a possible sighting of Billings near Lynn Headwaters on Nov. 25. One of them had found out about the search via Twitter.
The report spurred Vancouver police and RCMP to resume their search after suspending operations last week. Billings' family had funded the latest search operations in an effort to find some closure.
North Shore Rescue spokesman Tim Jones said they focused on the Hanes Valley and Crown Pass on Sunday.
"[It's] a high probability that the person they saw was Thomas Billings," Jones told CBC News. "And the direction of travel was into Lynn Headwaters towards Crown and eventually to get back out through Grouse."
Jones said the search is considered a recovery operation, not a rescue.
On Sunday afternoon, the search was suspended because rainy conditions were making it too treacherous for crews to continue, Jones said.
"We have to be very very realistic to this, the family understands this, and as team leader and search manager of this team, I'm not going to put my members in a position where they're going to get hurt or worse,"
Jones said the team hopes to resume the search later this week.
Search continues with social media
Even though search has been called off for now, Billings's family is funding an innovative new search technique involving social media.
Searchers used a helicopter to record high quality video of the area and the footage has been posted on YouTube and social media sites with a request for members of the public to watch it, looking for clues.
Discovery Channel producer Mark Miller, who provided the video equipment that was strapped to the helicopter, says water on the lens and the weather have been problematic, but the so-called crowdsourcing has been working.
After Miller and others started spreading the word on Twitter and other social media websites, the public response has been generating tips for searchers, he says.
"I wonder if this isn't one of the strategies we might want to employ right away with a search. We might be able to fly some terrain, get that data out there, and while you've got people on the ground working the ground search, you might be able to work an aerial search through crowdsourcing."
Disappeared in November
Billings, 22, went missing while visiting Vancouver at the end of November. He had been on an eight-week tour of North America. He was last seen on Nov. 25 in the 1400 block of East Broadway.
He was reported missing when he failed to follow through with his planned travel itinerary in and around Vancouver and did not return to the U.K. as planned on Dec. 7.
Anyone with information on his disappearance is asked to call police.