PORT HARDY -- A North Island family may be getting closer to solving a two-decade-old mystery now that some personal items belonging to a missing pilot have surfaced.

Teddy Wade Masales, 33, was the pilot and sole occupant of a Robinson R22 helicopter flying towards Port Hardy on September 25, 1997, when he ran into difficulties

It was believed his helicopter crashed while flying near Numas Island, a short distance from Port Hardy. A search failed to turn up any sign of Masales or his helicopter, but 22 years later his wallet showed up on a beach just outside of Port Hardy.

Sandra Masales is married to Teddy's brother.

"It's definitely stirred up a lot of emotions again, "she says. "He was married at the time and had a baby on the way, so obviously his wife at the time was quite upset and of course would like to see some closure."

A Grade 11 student and her mother were walking along a low-tide area of the Quatse River estuary and discovered the pilot's wallet which contained his birth certificate and social insurance card. 

Sandra says Teddy's identification and wallet were in good condition, leading her to believe they hadn't been in the salt water for long. Members of a volunteer search group in the area say recent landslides may have disturbed the crash site, allowing the wallet to travel to where it was found.

Family members, including Teddy's 22-year-old son who never met his father, were hoping a large search of the area where the wallet was found could have been carried out over the Easter Weekend but that has been cancelled over COVID-19 concerns.

They are the same concerns that have cancelled aerial searches by the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA).

"We were using that as a training spot to train spotters, but we're stood down for any training at the moment," said Bill Velie, the group's zone commander for Vancouver Island. "But once that's released we'll get back at it again." 

CASARA volunteers flew grid lines over the area at the 500- and 1,000-foot levels but were unable to find any wreckage. 

Veiles says forestry growth over the past 22 years will have covered the chopper's potential accident scene but members are anxious to take more looks once they are able to.

"We're mainly looking for signs of where it went down, like many a broken tree-top or where that slide is," he says.

Veiles agrees the condition of the wallet seems to indicate it hadn't been in the water for long. He thinks the slide area could be a potential hot spot for more clues.

Sandra is asking for anyoneout walking in the Quatse River area keep a keen eye out for more debris.