Search for missing Courtenay man intensifies
COURTENAY -- The search for missing Courtenay man, Michael Gazetas, 51, has intensified Tuesday as friends and volunteers widen the scope of their search to include the west and south portions of Vancouver Island.
Gazetas was last seen leaving his Courtenay home on Friday at 8:30 a.m. in his red Ford Ranger pickup truck with licence plate HX4109. Since then, the RCMP and volunteers have been searching for him.
Brent Calkin is a volunteer with Lion's Bay Search and Rescue and is acting as a coordinator with the search. He is a good friend of Gazetas' but says that the broad search has been difficult.
"The hardest part of this search is not having any direction," Calkin said. "We have a point last seen, everything radiates from there."
Calkin says Gazetas could be anywhere on Vancouver Island, especially in back areas because that's where he loves to spend time, often in his capacity as a location scout for the film industry.
"He could be anywhere, he knows this island inside-out and he knows all the weird little corners of this island," he said. "We need all the people who are in those corners to keep an eye out for this little red truck."
Because of his film-industry connection, Calkin says many of Gazetas friends and associates have made their way to Vancouver Island to assist however they can.
Calkin believes there are 10 teams out searching back areas today, an effort Gazetas' sister-in-law, Janine Root, says is greatly appreciated by the family.
"It's really comforting to all of us who are close to Michael that there's so many friends and family and acquaintances who care so much and want to help".
Root is holding out hope that Gazetas has perhaps experienced vehicle difficulties with his pickup, having had a tie-rod break on the Ford earlier this year.
"If people see the truck, that's really what we're looking for and anyone who has an idea that they may have seen it, it's better to have a false lead than no clues to go on," Root says.
Meanwhile, friends of Gazetas have launched an online fundraiser to help with search costs, including the renting of a helicopter.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the GoFundMe campaign had exceed its goal of $15,000 with a total of $33,190. While the initial goal has been reached, further donations will go towards search efforts and additional helicopter rentals.
According to one friend of Gazetas, the helicopter was able to assist with the search Monday, but could not take flight Tuesday due to the island's snowy and rainy weather.
Donations to the GoFundMe can be made online here.