Scaled-back police effort 'strengthens' community resolve to find missing Saint John man

It’s been four days since Peter Hoellwarth, 54, left his Martinon-area home Sunday night and vanished. There hasn’t been a trace of him since.

Peter Hoellwarth, 54, was last seen leaving his west Saint John home Sunday night

Peter Hoellwarth, 54, was last seen leaving his Martinon-area residence Sunday night. (Facebook)

As emergency organizations scale back the effort to locate a missing Saint John man, community volunteers have taken the reins and expanded the search area.

It's been four days since Peter Hoellwarth, 54, left his Martinon-area home Sunday night and vanished. There hasn't been a trace of him since.

His brother-in-law, Thumper McDonald, said it was "disheartening" to hear that Saint John police and search and rescue organizations were scaling down the formal search as the major crime unit continues its investigation.

Thumper McDonald, Hoellwarth's brother-in-law, has taken over organizing the volunteer search effort. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

"They did an excellent job while they were here," McDonald, who is organizing the volunteer effort, said Thursday.

"It can be disheartening when you see resources scaled back, but that just strengthens our resolve to keep the momentum going, to keep hope going and keep the efforts in place."

'Overwhelming' community support

The community has responded.

More than 100 volunteers have signed up to continue searching until Sunday, and there are plenty more that have yet to register, McDonald said.

They've expanded the search area further north in Grand Bay-Westfield and south in the Westfield Road area of Saint John. Search zones have been divvied up and team leaders are guiding small groups of volunteers down roads, in ditches and wooded areas and near waterways.

McDonald said the search effort is geared to not impede the police investigation.

John Brewer is one of more than 100 volunteers involved in the search for Hoellwarth. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

John Brewer was part of a team of six who searched for two and a half hours Wednesday.

"The community involvement, especially amongst the youth of the community, was quite overwhelming," he said Thursday.

'He'd be here for me'

Brewer is just one of the volunteers who felt compelled to help the missing insurance adjuster and family man.

"The repetitive comment being made is, 'He'd do it for me. He'd be here for me,'" said McDonald.

He said the search teams will scour their designated areas once a day until Sunday and then re-evaluate.

Police say they've followed up on a few leads, but they have no updates as of Thursday afternoon.

Hoellwarth and his daughter Emilee. (Facebook/Emilee Hoellwarth)

Hoellwarth is described as being five feet seven inches tall and 160 pounds, with greying, receding hair.

He was last seen wearing dark jeans, a black T-shirt and blue Nike sneakers.

Anyone with information is urged to call Saint John police at 648-3333.

With files from Hadeel Ibrahim

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