Search suspended for missing Merritt cowboy

Ben Tyner was last seen on Jan. 26, and the search for him was suspended on Feb. 3.

Merritt RCMP and Search and Rescue teams from across the province have been searching for a missing Merritt-area man for more than a week. As of Sunday, Feb. 3, however, the search has been called off.

Ben Tyner, the 32-year-old manager of Nicola Ranch, was declared missing on Monday, Jan. 28 after his horse—with full gear but no rider—was located by a hunter in an area just north of Merritt at 5:30 that morning. Tyner, who was on his days off from the ranch, was reported missing at 12:30 p.m. that day. He was last seen at approximately 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26, but it is not known when he set out into the back country.

Tyner was hired as the ranch manager at Nicola Ranch in November of 2018. While he is new to the Merritt area, he has been ranching and riding horses for many years and is believed to be in good shape and quite competent in the bush. He is described as being around 6’3 and 240 lbs, with dark hair and beard. He normally wears a black and red woollen hat with ear flaps.

Due to active logging in the area and herds of wild horses, finding tracks for Tyner was hindered, and Search and Rescue teams were unaware of Tyner’s destination.

Search dogs, tracking teams, helicopters, UTVs, and snowmobiles, as well as teams from across the Central Interior, the Lower Mainland, and Vancouver Island, assisted in the search. Local assistance was also provided by area First Nations bands, the ranching community, and volunteers.

As the weather continued to be cooperative, sixteen search and rescue teams from across B.C., along with three dog teams and two aircraft, were active on Feb. 3 looking for Tyner in -24° C. temperatures before the search was called off.

“We are into day seven, we’ve covered a lot of terrain, we’re quite confident that most of the terrain that we’ve covered is our highest probability,” said Merritt RCMP spokesperson Const. Tracy Dunsmore.

“Without any further evidence to look anywhere else, with the weather … it’s very icy, we have a skiff of snow, so it’s becoming dangerous for the searchers and they’ve been out for seven days so fatigue is starting to set in.

“We call it a suspension, so our file is ongoing. The RCMP will continue to investigate. If we find another area that we need to search or find other evidence that we need to search we can call the search back on and look in those areas.”

Police are downplaying the suspicion that foul play is involved, despite speculation about how Tyner’s horse came to be found where it was.

Anyone with information, or who may have seen a male riding in the Swakum ridge area of Merritt on Jan. 26 or 27, is asked to contact the Merritt RCMP at (250) 378-4262.

As at the time of going to press on Feb. 5, Tyner had not been located.

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