Authorities in British Columbia say they have called off the search for Ben Tyner, 32, an employee on the Nicola Ranch who went missing Jan. 26 in the remote area of the Nicola Valley northeast of Vancouver, B.C.
A hunter found Tyner’s horse wandering alone in the bush in full tack early the following Monday. Tyner had been hired as a ranch manager in November, and had been on his day off when he was last seen in a remote area near the town of Merritt, population 7,000. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said no one knows when he rode into the backcountry or where he was going.
Kim Robinson, found Tyner’s horse about 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 28, according to the Merritt Herald.
“It took me about 20 minutes to get him because he was pretty jumpy — something happened to him. He only had one rein,” Robinson said. “But I caught him and tied him up to a tree.”
A seven-day long search was launched and as many as many as 19 teams from across the province, dog tracking teams, air support, drones, riders and community volunteers searched in vain for the missing man. RCMP Constable Tracy Dunsmore said rescuers were hindered by the fact they had no indication of where Tyner was headed when he left home.
In a news release, Dunsmore said that crews searched extensively in the area where the horse was found, and extreme cold and poor weather all contributed to suspending the search.
"We don't know what his destination was,” Dunsmore said. “We believe he rode in from the ranch where he works, but we're having trouble locating tracks because of all the wildlife in the area and other wild horse herds."
Authorities have downplayed any suspicions of foul play, but they are still uncertain how the horse ended up in the location where it was found.
“Part of the work we’ve been trying to do is piece together a timeline and piece together information about how Ben was transported — was he transported by a trailer — and we don’t have any confirmation of that at all,” search-and-rescue incident commander Paul Berry said. “Nothing has been identified at this point to indicate Ben or any of his footprints or any sign of Ben in relation to the horse.”
Authorities are not sure how prepared Tyner was to be outside in the frigid temperatures. “He’s a rancher, so we believe he was dressed for the weather, probably had proper gear, but there’s no indication that he took anything to spend the night,” Dunsmore said.