Desperate search underway in Miramichi for man with Alzheimer's missing for 4 days
Searchers are scouring the woods in Miramichi for a New Brunswick man with Alzheimer's who has been missing for four days.
Brian Ahern, 76, was last seen on foot Saturday around 3 p.m. AT, following a social visit at a neighbour's home, according to his son, Cory Ahern.
"They said that they saw him cross the highway  and then enter the woods into the trail that he would have taken to go home," Ahern said.
The trail leads directly to the family homestead on Ahern Road, built by his great-grandparents in 1904, said Ahern.
It should have been a short walk, about five minutes, he said. But his father never made it home.
Struggling to keep hope
He suspects he might have missed the turn-off and kept going straight, deeper into the woods.
His family is extremely worried, he said.
"He hasn't eaten now in days, drank anything. He has medications he hasn't taken" for his blood pressure and some heart issues. In addition, he wasn't dressed for the weather, wearing only a sweatshirt, with no jacket.
Ahern hasn't lost hope, but fears it may be a recovery mission at this point rather than a rescue.
"As the days go on, I think there's just a lesser and less chance that we find him alive."
Plea for help
Ahern has issued a plea for people in the community to help in the search.
Although members of the Miramichi Police Force and the Miramichi Ground Search and Rescue searched the area on Sunday and Monday, Ahern said police told his mother they wouldn't be back again to search for her husband of 48 years — a father of three and grandfather of four — until Saturday.
Const. Robert Frontain, a spokesperson for the force, said he could not comment on that.
But he did confirm crews are "on standby" until Saturday, unless new information or clues come to light before then.
"The search area was exhausted" on Sunday and Monday, he said, when several officers and about 30 search crew members went out, along with some conservation officers, members of the Department of Justice and Public Safety and an RCMP dog. A police drone was also used on Monday, he said.
Frontain could not estimate the size of the area searched. "We checked every area we could in those woods from where he was last seen," he said, noting Ahern wasn't reported missing to police until Sunday afternoon.
"We could be out there searching for days and days. You can go pretty much forever in the woods."
Asked what police have to say to the family, who is already worried they might be too late, Frontain replied, "Our thoughts are with them at this time.
"It's not an easy situation for … anyone."
Miramichi Ground Search and Rescue officials did not respond to a request for comment by Wednesday night.
Frontain pointed out they are all volunteers and said the search conditions were challenging. The woods are "swampy," with water "up to their waist in some areas," and there was heavy rain on Sunday.
Some officers who used their personal all-terrain vehicles to search got stuck and had to get towed out with winches, he added.
The family was pleased with the initial response, Ahern said. The force was quick to issue a news release about his father being missing and to activate the search, which lasted until dark and resumed Monday around 7 a.m. Crews even set up a command centre at the house with a couple of trailers and a Porta Potty, he said.
But the family thought the search would continue Tuesday morning. When crews didn't show up, Ahern turned to social media.
"Our dad is still missing. If anyone wants to come help search please feel free. The more people the better chance we have to find him," he posted on Facebook.
'We just want to find my dad'
The response from the community has been "amazing," said Ahern. He estimates 40 or 50 people showed up Tuesday and about double that Wednesday. Local churches are also praying.
"We're very, very grateful," he said, fighting back tears.
"We just want to find my dad."
The family is also asking people in the Nelson, Nowlanville and Barnaby areas to check their properties, including their barns, sheds, campers and boats.
Ahern is described as being six feet tall and about 180 pounds.
He was last seen wearing glasses, green pants, a green Wind River sweatshirt, black and grey sneakers, and a camouflage baseball cap.
Anyone who has seen Ahern or may have information about his whereabouts is asked to call Miramichi police.