By Keith McNeill and Robyn Rexin
As of press-time earlier this week the search continued for missing Vavenby resident Vern Boettger and his 1997 Ford Ranger, B.C. license 8769HB.
Boettger, age 78, was last seen Sunday afternoon, Oct. 6, driving his pickup.
During this past long weekend, close to 20 Search and Rescue members plus about 30 non-member volunteers searched the thousands of kilometers of backroads in the area.
“If it’s drivable, we’ve been going down it,” said one searcher.
Search and Rescue members from the Wells Gray, Kamloops, Logan Lake, and South Cariboo (100 Mile House) teams took part. Members from Robson Valley Search and Rescue combed the backcountry working south from Valemount.
An RCMP helicopter plus volunteer-flown aircraft from PEP Air were also involved.
Wells Gray Search and Rescue set up a command trailer at Vavenby Christian Church. All the searchers meet there in the morning before setting out. They then check in when they return in the evening, and where they went is marked on a map, and searchers are debriefed. Several of the search teams are equipped with satellite transceivers that allow them to communicate with base as well as show their location using GPS.
The search effort has received good support from the community of Vavenby, said search manager Les Sakals.
“It’s been fantastic,” he said. “They’ve been feeding the searchers three or four times a day. We got a roast beef dinner on Friday and a turkey dinner on Saturday.”
“The church has been letting us use the photocopier, phone, building and washroom.”
According to Clearwater RCMP, on Monday, Oct. 7, at 7:45 p.m., a Vavenby woman contacted the detachment to report that she had not seen her father, Lavern Boettger since Sunday afternoon.
She described her father as a loner who, when bored, likes to go driving on Forest Service roads in the backcountry. Although, elderly, police report that Boettger does not have significant medical/health issues, does not use alcohol or drugs and does not have dementia.
On Tuesday, RCMP contacted Wells Gray Search and Rescue and advised them of the incident. A RCMP helicopter (Air 4) was also contacted and assisted with the search efforts.
Initial information confirmed Boettger got gas in Clearwater and as a result the initial air search was conducted in the Clearwater area.
Clearwater RCMP received new information that night advising that a Vavenby resident who knows Boettger and his truck observed him in his vehicle driving north on Highway 5 from Vavenby.
Search efforts on Wednesday were concentrated between Vavenby and Blue River. Friends, family and other local residents helped in the search. By the weekend the search area had been expanded again to include the roaded area from Tree Farm License 18 west of Clearwater to near Valemount. On Wednesday, RCMP announced the decision to call off the search.
Boettger has lived in the Vavenby area since the early 1960s. Now retired, he worked mostly in the forest industry.