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

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

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

One in seven Canadians deal with food insecurity due to the pandemic. See story on page 10. (Phil McLachlan - West K News)
Kelowna’s first community fridge needs a home

People who need food right away will be able to access the community fridge

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

UBCO students are among the most food insecure in Canada, according to a new study by UBC Okanagan. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News/FILE)
UBCO students among most food insecure in Canada

42.3 per cent either can’t properly feed themselves, or are worried they will soon run out of money

(Jen Zielinski - Black Press Media)
Vehicle incident on Enterprise Way causes traffic delays in Kelowna

Traffic is slow in all directions surrounding the intersection of Enterprise and Dilworth Drive

Interior Health reported 43 new COVID-19 cases in the region Feb. 23, 2021 and no additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
43 new cases of COVID reported in Interior Health

No new deaths, Williams Lake outbreak over

This year’s Pink Shirt Day event will be held virtually with the Breakfast in a Box. (Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs photo)
Pink Shirt Day 2021 kicks off with virtual event

“When you’re functioning from a place of kindness, there’s no way that bullying can exist.”

COVID-19 testing at the Vernon Health Services Unit. (Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star)
Two Vernon high schools exposed to COVID-19

Vernon Secondary and Seaton were sent home notices yesterday of exposure event

Vancouver Canucks left wing Antoine Roussel (26) tries to get a shot past Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) during second period NHL action in Vancouver, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks cough up 3-0 lead, fall 4-3 to visiting Edmonton Oilers

Vancouver falls to 8-13-2 on the NHL season

Jessica McCallum-Miller receives her signed oath of office from city chief administrative officer Heather Avison on Nov. 5, 2018 after being elected to Terrace City Council. McCallum-Miller resigned on Feb. 22, 2021, saying she felt unsupported and unheard by council. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace’s 1st Indigenous councillor resigns citing ‘systemic and internalized racism,’ sexism

McCallum-Miller said in a Facebook post she felt unheard and unsupported by council

Temporary changes to allow for wholesale pricing for the hospitality industry were implemented June 2020 and set to expire March 31.	(Pixabay photo)
Pubs, restaurants to pay wholesale prices on liquor permanently in COVID-recovery

Pre-pandemic, restaurateurs and tourism operators paid full retail price on most liquor purchases

Summerland has received conditional approval for $6 million in federal funding to build a one-megawatt solar array to provide power to the community. (Stock photo)
Summerland council reaffirms solar project in 4-3 vote

Coun. Richard Barkwill had earlier written letters in opposition to initiative

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Lake Country residents are warned about another rock slide on Pelmewash Parkway, Feb. 23, 2021. (Melanie Marie photo)
Rockslide on old Okanagan highway

Pelmewash Parkway once again littered with debris

Most Read