ST. GEORGE — The body of a Thomaston man who has been missing since he went clamming during a blizzard last week was recovered Monday in Long Cove near Tenants Harbor.

The Maine Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the body was that of 33-year-old Paul Benner, Maine Marine Patrol spokesman Jeff Nichols said.

Benner was located shortly before noon by Dallas Fields of Fields Dive Service. Benner’s family had asked Fields 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 Maine State Police/Marine Patrol team took Benner’s body to shore.

Benner was last seen about 6 p.m. Thursday at the tail end of the storm, 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 about an hour later a few hundred yards from the causeway at Clark Island, 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 the next day, the Marine Patrol said.

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 had boats from the stations in Boothbay Harbor and Rockland join the search Friday. A Coast Guard helicopter from Cape Cod also flew over the search area Friday morning.

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, when searchers began their efforts.

Nichole Moose, one of Benner’s three sisters, said Friday that 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,” she 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, Massachusetts.

“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.

Benner leaves his parents, three sisters and five nieces and nephews. He also had been in a longtime relationship, Moose said.

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

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