The effort to find missing Courtenay man Michael Gazetas has moved to looking through thousands of images taken from helicopter flights during the search. Photo supplied

Volunteers comb through thousands of photos in search for missing Vancouver Island man

Friends of Michael Gazetas are scouring files for a clue to resume official search

While the official search for a missing Courtenay man has been stood down, there is work going on behind the scenes to look for a lead.

The hope is to find some clue that can prompt another official search for Michael Gazetas. A previous one in February focused on the highway west of Campbell River toward Gold River.

Gazetas was last seen Jan. 31 leaving his Courtenay home in his red Ford Ranger pickup. The search yielded little information, beyond the odd clue such as a service vehicle that seemed to be on the same stretch of road around the same time Gazetas was presumed to be driving. The official search was stood down following the second weekend of the effort.

RELATED STORY: Search for missing Courtenay man called off

There were ground crews looking for some sign. In addition, there were aerial searches, and what they have now is a massive collection of high-resolution photographs taken from helicopters. Friends and family had raised thousands of dollars to pay for helicopter flights to help narrow down potential locations on Vancouver Island where Gazetas might have gone.

Jay Pretula, one of Gazetas’s friends from the Lower Mainland, has been co-ordinating the efforts of many people to scour through the images for some sign of where Gazetas might have gone.

“It was a mountainous task that we chose to take on, but we felt we wanted to do it properly,” he said.

In all, he estimates they have about 17 hours of helicopter flight time, including about 12 hours from the privately funded search. Gold River RCMP and Campbell River SAR received a tip they needed to check, and Pretula said they were able to comb through the footage to find a couple of “noteworthy items” to send to the SAR, who passed it onto RCMP. The likelihood of it as an “item of actual interest” was seen to be low, but the authorities wanted to check in any case.

“They went up into the air as well to check some of the places they wanted to check … just so they could cross it off,” he said.

In all, Pretula said there are thousands of images to go through to look for clues such as the red truck.

“We’ve been scouring the imagery for red items … but we didn’t exclude any other objects,” he said.

This could include anything from a cabin to a container – anything that might be a sign – though Gazetas’s Ford Ranger has been the focal point.

“Everything right now is still about that truck,” he added.

As of late February, they had almost 240 people volunteering their time to go through the images. The intention was to have at least two sets of eyes to look through every folder. Their first helicopter flight alone generated about 12,000 images.

“We’re going to have viewed just about 65,000 images when we’re finished,” he said. “It’s a lot of imagery, and we’ve parsed it out as best we can to people…. It’s a lot of data to go through.”

As well, the organizers held a town hall meeting in Vancouver at the beginning of March to inform people in the Lower Mainland taking part in the effort on the current status.

“People have questions, and lots of them are good questions, but they’re the questions we answered fairly early on in our search,” he said. “There’s a lot of those questions that seem to persist.”

Some people have also joined since the effort began, so this meeting allowed organizers the opportunity to bring people up to date.

Pretula said they will take all the tips that come back and prioritize them for significance that could lead to start up the helicopter searches again.

“We don’t want to give up just yet,” he added. “It may be a waiting game, depending on what we find.”



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

missing person

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The effort to find missing Courtenay man Michael Gazetas has moved to looking through thousands of images taken from helicopter flights during the search. Photo supplied

Just Posted

Alleged impaired driver crashes car into parked truck on Chilliwack’s Wellington Avenue

Police investigated the collision which took place shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday morning

Which riding do you live in — Chilliwack or Chilliwack-Kent?

Understanding one small and condensed riding vs. one large and sprawling riding

Police seek assistance locating missing Hope teen, last seen near Agassiz

RCMP say Jada Charlie-Carlson was last seen Monday in the 61000 block of Lougheed Highway

VIDEO: Take a drone tour of art from the Chilliwack Mural Festival

A local drone pilot has created a virtual tour of projects big and small in the downtown core

Former constituency assistant for Chilliwack MLA intends to plead guilty to fraud, breach of trust

John Martin fired Desmond Devnich for allegedly misappropriating thousands from constituency office

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

6 puppies rescued in mass seizure on Princeton farm die from illness: BC SPCA

Of the 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized, most of the puppies suffered from parvo

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

B.C. VOTES 2020: Businesses now owe $6 billion in deferred tax payments

COVID-19 relief from remittance to province ends with September

Most Read