The body of Paul Benner, who has been missing since he went clamming at the end of a blizzard last week, was recovered Monday, Jan. 8.

The Maine Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Monday afternoon that the body was that of the 33-year-old Thomaston man, Maine Marine Patrol spokesman Jeff Nichols said.

Benner was located shortly before noon by Dallas Fields of Fields Dive Service. Fields had been asked by the family to search. Benner's father took Fields out in a borrowed skiff to the area of the cove where he thought his son might be located.

"I put my dive gear on and started swimming a grid pattern and found the body after about 20 minutes in the water," Fields said.

The state police/marine patrol dive team took Benner's body to shore. He was taken to the Maine Medical Examiner’s Office for confirmation of his identity.

Benner was last seen at about 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4, when he went out on his 14-foot skiff to go clamming. His father reported him missing shortly before 11 p.m.

Benner's skiff was located at about midnight Thursday a few hundred yards from the causeway at Clark Island, which is located across the cove from the dock where Benner left. Other equipment from Benner's skiff, including an anchor and clam gear, were found in the middle of Long Cove at low tide Jan. 5, according to the Marine Patrol which is heading up the search.

In addition to the Marine Patrol, the Knox County Sheriff's Office had been involved in the search. Fire departments from St. George, South Thomaston and Thomaston also participated in searching the cove and shoreline. The Coast Guard on Friday had boats searching from the stations in Boothbay Harbor and Rockland. A Coast Guard helicopter from Cape Cod also flew over the search area Jan. 5.

The search began in the wake of a major winter storm that produced near-record high tides, high seas and heavy winds. The National Weather Service reported near-shore seas of 10 to 15 feet. Seas in the waters between Long Cove Road and Clark Island were reported to be about 2 feet early Friday morning, when searchers began their efforts.

Nichole Moose, one of Benner's three sisters, said Friday hard work was one of her brother's qualities. "He is the hardest worker you could possibly meet, hence his being out in such conditions," Moose said.

The family grew up in the Midcoast and Benner attended D.R. Gaul School in Union, Appleton Village School, and Camden Hills Regional High School.

He started clamming and lobstering as a young boy with his father Thurin, Moose said. He also spent several years fishing offshore out of New Bedford, Mass.

"He loves his family more than life and is incredibly loyal in every sense of the word. He is quiet and silly and he has a heart of pure gold," she said.

In addition to his parents, three sisters and five nieces and nephews, the Thomaston man has been in a longtime relationship, she said.

Search efforts were made more difficult by the extreme cold. Temperatures were below zero during the weekend it was in progress, with a brisk wind.