The search continues for a missing Courtenay man.
Michael Gazetas has not been seen since he left his home in his red Ford Ranger pickup on Jan. 31. There has not been a lot of progress, but searchers did get a break in terms of narrowing down the area to be searched.
Search and rescue teams along with family, friends and police were focusing on the Highway 28 corridor west of Campbell River over the weekend.
They are also looking for a truck, probably some kind of service vehicle, that might have been travelling in the area around the same time as Gazetas in the hope that someone might have a clue in terms of his whereabouts. A video shows the service vehicle in the area of the Uplands gravel pit on the Gold River Highway, just before Gazetas.
”They’re trying to identify what that company might be, so they can follow up,” says Paul Berry, president of Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue (CVGSAR).
The search, as it stands, is being conducted by Campbell River Search and Rescue with CVGSAR assisting as part of a mutual aid agreement. In fact, there are nine Vancouver Island search and rescue teams coming from as far south as Victoria to help out, as have friends and family from the Lower Mainland.
Because there was no initial indication where Gazetas went, search and rescue could not take part, so friends and family raised money through a GoFundMe campaign to pay for private helicopter searches. As of Sunday afternoon, more than $46,000 had been brought in, while organizers kept people posted with updates online. Once the geographical scope could be limited somewhat, search teams were called in.
“We had a clue … a video of Michael’s vehicle traveling westbound,” said Berry. “That was the trigger to initiate a large-scale search.”
However, he added this is the only clue so far.
More than 5o search team members, along with friends, family and RCMP, were out over the weekend looking on all roads, including logging roads, to locate Gazetas’s vehicle. Berry estimates this weekend’s effort took more than 1,100 person-hours of searcher time, and that doesn’t include additional measures such as fixed-wing and helicopter air searches.
“It’s about a 16,000-square-km search area,” Berry said Sunday afternoon. “We’re looking at every possibility. We’ve certainly had some significant challenges with the search area just because of terrain and weather.”