WINDSOR, N.S. — An Ardoise resident who spent nearly three decades volunteering with search and rescue operations is once again combing the countryside in hopes of bringing a conclusion to a missing persons case in Windsor.
Allan Murphy Sr. said when he first learned about Tim Wells’ disappearance in 2018, he felt compelled to reach out to Wells’ family, in particular his younger sister, Vivian Wells.
“I didn’t know Tim at all, and I didn’t know Vivian either,” said Murphy as he explained how he got involved.
“My wife was looking at Facebook or something — I’m not into computers — and I noticed that and thought ‘oh my God, not another one,” he said.
“I just felt kind of bad for her and thought I’d contact her and see if I could help her.”
Tim Wells was reported missing May 12, 2018. He was last spotted travelling along Highway 14, Chester Road, near Card Lake. It was unusual for Wells, who had diabetes and a mental health issue, to miss a meal or medication. With Mother’s Day the next day, his family says it was even more unusual for Wells to not touch base as he would never miss a chance to visit his mother at the Windsor Elms Village.
Murphy says he is classified as an inactive search and rescue member, but spent about 27 years volunteering his time and skills to help others find closure. He was involved with the recovery efforts when Swissair flight 111 crashed near Peggy’s Cove on Sept. 2, 1998, and also travelled across the province to help reunite missing people with loved ones.
Since getting involved in Wells’ case, which he is doing independently, he has employed his tracking skills to try to find clues that could result in finding the middle-aged man.
“This has got nothing to do with the police or anything like that. I’m helping Vivian,” said Murphy of his search. “Whatever I find, if anything, I would take it to her and let her deal with it.”
While much of the focus has been on the last known sighting of Wells, which was near Card Lake, some 34 kilometres outside of Windsor, Murphy has been focusing on the route Wells would have taken to get there.
“There’s many different ways to search but you have to change your strategy as time goes by,” said Murphy.
“Right now, it wouldn’t be any good to look with two feet of snow on the ground.”
When the weather was nicer, he would do spot searches along Chester Road, targetting areas that he felt stood out.
“Some places stick out more than others, like a guardrail on the side of the road,” said Murphy.
“If you’re on a bicycle, you’d come out more into the road than you would without a rail there,” he said, noting that there would be an increased chance of accidents.
With Wells having insulin-dependent diabetes, missing a dose could put him at risk for developing hypoglycemia, a condition that could lead to dizziness, confusion, incoherence and loss of consciousness. That’s another factor that Murphy said needs to be taken into consideration.
“These are the things that go through a search members’ mind, along with thousands of other things.”
Murphy has not searched the Card Lake area in detail as the police initially focused their efforts in that general vicinity.
In the spring, Murphy said he will resume looking for Wells, and if his searches aren’t successful along Chester Road, he will look further into the woods and review the Card Lake region for clues.
Murphy has high praise for ground search and rescue volunteers, and said it made sense that they weren’t called out to help when Wells first went missing.
“The search team doesn’t go out on its own. The search team is called out by the RCMP. We work under the RCMP,” explained Murphy.
“As the police say, without a PLS — Place Last Seen — it’s hard to bring out a team that are volunteers, that work during the day for a living. It’s hard to bring them out as we don’t know where he’s at,” he said.
“He could be on the Chester Road, or he could be in Ontario, hypothetically. We don’t know. So, it’s hard to bring out a team and get them to search day after day after day and he may not be there,” he added.
Staff Sgt. Cory Bushell said in a previous interview with the Journal that the RCMP deployed DNR’s helicopter for patrols in and around Card Lake, and searched the length of Chester Road, the ditches on both sides, plus the wooded area on both sides of the road.
On Jan. 16, he confirmed via email that there were no new leads in the past week.
“This is why I’m trying to help Vivian. It is hard to lose a loved one, especially when you don’t know where they’re at for months,” said Murphy.
“My hope is that we find him.”
When asked to do an interview for this story via Facebook, a member of the West Hants Ground Search and Rescue declined to comment on what type of search efforts could be used to find a missing person months after their initial disappearance, nor would they provide confirmation as to how many years Murphy volunteered with them. Instead, the paper was told to contact the police.
Murphy, like the Wells family, remains hopeful that a tip will come in that will lead to finding Wells.
“I’ve been doing this most of my life. I know what it’s like to have a loved one missing and no one knows where they’re at. I’m just trying to do my best to help her out,” Murphy said.
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