With a small window of opportunity, Kamloops Search and Rescue (KSAR) has renewed its search efforts in Sun Peaks for missing Alberta man Ryan Shtuka nearly three months after its initial operation.
“There’s kind of a rare window here where the snow’s gone and before the plants all green up, which makes it a lot easier to walk through the woods and you can see everything very easily,” said KSAR search manager Alan Hobler.
Seventeen members of KSAR and four RCMP officers searched the Sun Peaks area last Saturday. Hobler said they plan to return to comb over areas of interest again either this weekend or the next.
When Shtuka disappeared at 2 a.m. on Feb. 17 following a house party on Burfield Road, KSAR sprang into action, but suspended the search after two days.
Shtuka’s parents, Heather and Scott from Beaumont, Alta., have been at Sun Peaks since February, conducting searches with volunteers and police.
Hobler said searching in the snow was extremely difficult and inefficient.
“There’s a lot of snow that fell. I think it was 22 centimetres of snow fell, from the time Shtuka went missing to the time it was reported to us, so any clues was quite likely buried in the snow,” Hobler said.
Last week’s search turned up multiple articles of clothing, but Hobler said none of them are believed to belong to Shtuka.
“There’s hats, there’s socks, there’s shoes in places you’d never expect to find those things,” he said. “There’s lots of stuff like that turning up. It kind of gets your heart racing.”
Shtuka was last seen wearing dark jeans, a grey/white shirt, a blue coat and a burgundy ball cap, but Hobler said nothing matching those items was found.
“Anything that might have been remotely close we photograph and turn over to the RCMP for investigation,” he said.
The KSAR search focused on the south-facing slopes above Sun Peaks Road and included search dogs, Hobler said. There are still north-facing slopes KSAR still wants to search.
Volunteers who continue to help the Shtukas search numbered about 45 last Saturday, Hobler said, noting that group focused on the area between Burfield Drive and Shtuka’s home on Sun Peaks Road.
“The level of organization and the number of people coming out supporting the family has been phenomenal,” Hobler said " I’ve never seen anything like it."
KSAR plans to search along Burfield Road again, which is defined as a high probability area to find Shtuka, but the potential search area is quite vast.
Hobler said they determined its search area based on previous cases, the majority of which involve a five-kilometre radius of where the person was last seen, which in this case would go to the top of ski hills.
“We’ll never be able to search all that,” he said.
RCMP Cpl. Jodi Shelkie has told KTW police have no evidence to suggest Shtuka met with foul play when he went missing.
“To me, it seems obvious he didn’t walk home and get lost or fall asleep in a snow bank,” Hobler said. “It kind of feels like something else happened, who knows what that was — and maybe he did walk up one of the ski runs. Maybe [he was] despondent — that’s a possibility — maybe he went to another friend’s place, maybe he went for a walk somewhere else. There was a theory he went off for pizza in the village.”
Shtuka is white, stands six feet tall, weighs 82 kilograms (180 pounds) and has blond hair and brown eyes.
Anybody with information on the whereabouts of Shtuka is asked to call police at 250-828-3000.