Nova Scotia

Search for missing N.S. boy now a recovery effort

On Thursday evening, the Truro Police Service announced it is transitioning from a search effort to a recovery effort after "extensive efforts" failed to yield any new clues or information on three-year-old Dylan Ehler's whereabouts.

Prior to his disappearance Wednesday afternoon, Dylan Ehler was playing outside of his grandmother's home

Dylan Ehler, 3, was last seen near Queen and Elizabeth streets in Truro, N.S. on Wednesday. (Town of Truro/Facebook)

The search for a missing three-year-old Nova Scotia boy who was last seen near his grandmother's house in the town of Truro on Wednesday is now a recovery operation.

In a news release on Thursday, the Truro Police Service said "extensive efforts" to find Dylan Ehler "have not yielded any new clues or information."

Police said the decision to switch modes was made in consultation with Dylan's family after they had a chance to attend the search and rescue command post.

"This does not mean the team has given up on finding Dylan," police said.

A search and rescue team from Halifax was leading the ground search for Dylan on Thursday, after relieving a Colchester County search and rescue team that had been searching overnight. A provincial dive team arrived Thursday morning to search the Salmon River, which runs a few hundred metres from where the boy was last seen. 

Dylan went missing early Wednesday afternoon, and a search began at about 1:20 p.m. AT. 

During a press briefing earlier on Thursday, the Truro Police Service said prior to his disappearance, Dylan was playing outside of his grandmother's home on Queen Street. 

"As far as we know, her dog was involved. She may have turned around to tie the dog or do something with the dog and she turned around and he had left  — it was just that quick," Truro Police Service Chief Dave MacNeil.

MacNeil said police were on scene four minutes after being called. He said officers quickly canvassed the neighbourhood and soon brought in the K-9 unit.

WATCH | Truro police update on missing 3-year-old:

Because of Dylan's age, police contacted Colchester Search and Rescue to help as well as the province's Emergency Management Office. An alert was sent out to social media, government sites and media sites.

"As far as resourcing is, we're very confident we got at this early. It was resourced appropriately from the jump," MacNeil said.

Later in the evening, MacNeil said the search turned to Lepper Brook — a body of water close to the grandmother's home.

Firefighters searched the river, which is about chest deep. They found one of Dylan's boots around 7:20 p.m. in the water. The other boot was found at 8:43 p.m. further down the brook near the mouth of the Salmon River.

At the time, MacNeil said police were trying to keep optimistic with the search.

"It's not very comforting for the family to think the worst ... telling them that we found his rubber boots wasn't easy. They're a strong family — they're coming to grips with any outcome that's possible," MacNeil said.

In a Facebook post just after 12:22 p.m. AT Thursday, Dylan's mother praised the search effort.

"I want to thank all of the wonderful people who are tirelessly looking for Dylan. Every officer, rescue team member, volunteers, friends, family and every person who is praying for us. THANK YOU," she wrote in a public post.

Public shouldn't help with search, police say

MacNeil praised the community's efforts to find Dylan, but said members of the public should not get involved with the search.

"When people are untrained and they do try to help with a search, often time they miss clues, maybe trample over evidence or maybe become [at] risk of falling into the raging waters themselves," MacNeil said.

Norman Brown, Dylan's grandfather, described his grandson as "very active. The best kid you ever want to meet." He said he just turned three a few weeks ago.

Dylan was last seen wearing camouflage pants, rubber boots and the same fur-lined hooded winter coat with U.S. flags that he is seen wearing in a photo distributed by police.  

Search and rescue crews are seen in the Salmon River in Truro, N.S., looking for Dylan on Thursday morning. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

No foul play suspected, no Amber Alert

In a news release distributed Thursday morning, the Truro Police Service said it does not believe Dylan's disappearance involves any foul play, and therefore it did not issue an Amber Alert.

Truro Coun. Cathy Hinton said people in the local community were frantic when they learned of the disappearance. Hinton represents the ward where Dylan went missing.

"We have a very strong ward here, a good sense of community in our ward and our town ... and we're devastated over this. We've had so much in the past, and this just seems like it can't be possible. Not one more thing in this town. It's unbelievable," Hinton said in an interview.

'We do not need more tragedy in Nova Scotia'

Truro is about 40 kilometres east of Portapique, where a mass killing began the night of April 18. Both towns are part of Colchester County. 

WATCH | Search for missing boy now a recovery effort:

The search for a missing 3-year-old boy in Truro, N.S., last seen near his grandmother's house on Wednesday, has become a recovery effort. 2:30

Ruth Thompson, a Truro resident who brought coffee and doughnuts to the search and rescue teams Thursday morning, echoed Hinton's distress over the child's disappearance coming on the heels of the shootings.

"I hope they find the little guy. We do not need more tragedy in Nova Scotia. Not now — 2020 didn't start out very good," said Thompson.

MacNeil said police have no plans of stopping the search any time soon, but he said it may be scaled back later. He said police will provide another update later Thursday evening.

Police are asking anyone with information to call 902-895-5351.

MAP | The area of Queen and Elizabeth streets in Truro, where Dylan was last seen

About the Author

Taryn Grant

Reporter

Taryn Grant is a Halifax-based reporter and web writer for CBC Nova Scotia. You can email her with tips and feedback at taryn.grant@cbc.ca

With files from Paul Palmeter and Preston Mulligan

now