But for this experienced skier's family, what was in their favor: the tremendous number of people willing to help.
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They describe it as an army.
"It really was. I am. Completely underestimated in my mind what it was going to look like." says Markus Mullarkey, Tom's nephew. "It was a scale of operation beyond anything I could have guessed...and it's continuing."
The Alpine County Sheriff's Department called on rescuers and volunteers from all over the bay area. From heat-sensing technology in the air to meticulously probing every inch, for what could be buried beneath the snow.
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Rachel Gomez, Tom's niece just returned from the search in the Sierra and is beyond grateful.
"Originally I felt like there was nothing I could do. I was at work and I felt helpless"
While Tom's family knows the odds of survival are slim, they hold on to their faith, to hope and to each other to get them through the unknown.
"Whatever the outcome may be, we will be able to rest and be assured that we did everything we could to the best of our ability." Says Rachel.
Because of so many people offering to help in the seach, the family created this You Caring crowdfunding page for donations. They're blown away by the amount raised and say they'll donate the extra proceeds back to the first responders and everyone who put their blood, sweat and tears into helping find Tom.
New images from the search in the Sierra where Richmond man, Tom Mullarkey went missing. 🎿 The family sits down w/me at 4/6pm w/their message of gratitude. 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/kT59JYC6Q3— Dion Lim (@DionLimTV) March 23, 2018