Update: Searchers located missing Palo Alto residents Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin alive on Saturday, Feb. 22. Read our latest story here.
As time ticks on in the effort to locate Palo Alto residents Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin, who have been missing for nearly a week in the small Marin County community of Inverness, the number of searchers has waned.
On Wednesday, the dive team from the Marin County Sheriff's Office spent hours looking for the couple in the high tide waters of Tomales Bay and found nothing, according to a deputy.
"There's not gonna be much going on out here," said Sgt. Brad Kashack, who was exhausted from the long day of searches on Tuesday to find the Palo Alto couple and didn't come home to sleep until 1 a.m.
It was the fourth day of search operations in Inverness — a small unincorporated town 3.5 miles northwest of Point Reyes Station — since Kiparsky, 77, and Irwin, 72, were last heard from on Friday. Their belongings were left behind in a rented vacation cottage on Via De La Vista which is nestled in the woods of a ridgetop with a few homes widely spaced out from each other.
The couple missed an appointment on Sunday, according to the sheriff's office.
The missing person search started off strong earlier in the week when the sheriff's office canvassed the area by ground and air with help from several agencies. On Monday, 136 search and rescue members from all over the Bay Area traveled to Inverness, where many combed trails in the area.
Sheriff's deputies and Point Reyes National Seashore rangers set their sights on the water on Wednesday. They deployed a K9 team and the sheriff's dive team, which used a remotely operated underwater vehicle and a side scan sonar, according to a tweet from the sheriff's office.
The dive team started its search at the pier of Inverness Yacht Club around 9:15 a.m. and headed about a mile up north, closer to the couple's rental vacation home.
By noon, the sheriff's crew halted its search with no updates, while the park rangers continued looking on the boat with the sonar, according to Sgt. Brenton Schneider. The sheriff's office sent another team of divers and its underwater robot during low tide on Wednesday evening.
"I'm losing a little hope to be honest," said Burton Eubank, a longtime volunteer firefighter for the Inverness Fire Department who aided the search the past few days. "When they switched from tracking dogs to cadaver dogs — well, I'm thinking we're going to be expecting something bad."
Eubank said his sister, a housekeeper for the couple's rental home, told him the couple left behind several items, including cellphones, wallets, their vehicle, hiking gear and walking sticks. Authorities said no foul play is suspected.
"We've covered a lot," Eubank said. "We've gone beyond everywhere."
But according to KGO-TV news, Irwin's son, Jonas, told search and rescue teams on Tuesday, "They wouldn't leave all their stuff, leave their car and just vanish.
"This is a really weird time for our family. There is no playbook for something like this," he said. "My dad was somebody, who when he was really into the backpacking thing, would do snow camping and cut into ice and make fire. He is super resourceful."
The missing persons case is highly uncommon for the otherwise peaceful town, which has clearly paved trails mostly surrounded by impenetrable thicket. Eubank described the community as one with an "open door policy" and very few crimes, leaving many locals perplexed by what could have happened to the couple. The volunteer firefighter recalled the last missing persons case in the town was about four decades ago involving two girls who were later found.
"It's not that easy to get off trail," said Richard Blair, an Inverness resident of 30 years. His wife, Kathleen Goodwin, agreed.
"You can't just casually go through the woods," she said.
The two-story home where Irwin and Kiparsky had stayed, surrounded by wooden decks, an expanse of green lawn and tall evergreens, was quiet on Wednesday, aside from the hum of nearby construction and wildlife. There were no traces of an active investigation or the media firestorm that had invaded the secluded neighborhood earlier in the week when news surfaced of the missing couple.
On Thursday afternoon, the sheriff's office announced plans for the next four days and outlined the tools and agencies that will aid the "recovery mission" for Kiparsky and Irwin.
"The Marin County Sheriff's Office continues to work with the family of Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin in an effort to find them," the news release said. "During our searches with multiple K9 Teams, we have received four independent alerts from Cadaver K9 Teams in the area of Shell Beach."
The U.S. Coast Guard joined the sheriff's office and the Inverness Fire Department Thursday to provide aerial support around Tomales Bay and the shoreline.
On Friday, sheriffs will use jet skis, National Park Service boats, an airplane and drones to search the same areas.
Ground searches and K9 teams will return to assist with the operation on Saturday, along with NPS boats, an airplane and drones.
The resources will dwindle down on Sunday to NPS boats and an airplane at Tomales Bay and on Monday to searchers on jet skis.
The sheriff's office asks the public to be vigilant if they are in the area and report anything "out of the ordinary or suspicious."