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

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Chase RCMP arrest intoxicated man running into highway traffic

The man was wanted on several warrents in Alberta; was held overnight but released

Butter and sourdough bread is shown at a house in Vernon, B.C. on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. A Quebec dairy farmers’ group is calling on milk producers to stop feeding palm oil or its derivatives to livestock as controversy churns over how these supplements affect the consistency of butter. (THE CANADIAN PRESS - Jesse Johnston)
Poll: Care to spread your feelings on butter?

Reports of hard butter have rattled the Canadian dairy industry

Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Band had words of praise for the consultation between her people and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on an ongoing highway project. (Black Press file photo)
Collaboration on Shuswap highway project receives national award

Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson says expansion will open new economic opportunities for the band

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Chase RCMP have been focusing during February on prohibited drivers and stolen vehicles in the North Shuswap. (File photo)
RCMP crack down on prohibited drivers in North Shuswap

Help from community aids with arrests in Anglemont and Scotch Creek

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

(HelloKelowna - Twitter)
West Kelowna billboard bearing anti-vaccine messaging deemed misleading

Ad Standards investigated the billboard, noting a lack of evidence to support the messaging

Baldy Mountain Resort is temporarily closed following the death of a resort family member. Pictured above is a sunrise at the resort, Feb. 19, 2021. (Baldy Mountain Resort/Facebook)
Baldy Mountain ski hill closed following death of resort family member

Authorities currently investigating, resort set to reopen Sunday, Feb. 27

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Most Read