Billboards are still placed along the road leading up the mountain to Sun Peaks, B.C., and posters hang throughout the area reminding visitors and residents of the shocking disappearance of a young lift operator from the ski resort in 2018.
Three years ago, 20-year-old Ryan Shtuka vanished on his way home from a party, prompting a months-long search effort and police investigation that, to this day, remains open. For the community, his disappearance remains top of mind.
“No matter how much time has gone on, it’s a thought that’s been in the back of everyone’s minds, especially those of us who lived here during the search, the really intense searching period when he first went missing,” Jean Strong, editor of the Sun Peaks Independent News, told CBC’s Shelley Joyce.
“It’s nothing that we’ll ever really forget.”
Shtuka, from Beaumont, Alta., left a house party at approximately 2 a.m. on Feb. 17, 2018, and hasn’t been seen since, according to police.
Hundreds of volunteers from B.C. and Alberta spent months searching alongside local search and rescue teams and police.
The investigation into his disappearance remains ongoing.
Shtuka’s friend, Cooper Farmilo, said he subconsciously thinks of that time whenever he is out with friends.
“I didn’t actually realize just how much that has been impacting me,” Farmilo said.
“I’m so much more attentive to everything and I’m just looking out for my friends at all times when we go out and stuff; I’m always walking them home.”
Police, volunteers keep searching
Kamloops RCMP continue to receive tips about Shtuka and that night, and investigators follow up on each one, according to media relations officer Const. Crystal Evelyn.
She said the fact that this case has so few answers is concerning for police.
“We don’t know where he is or what happened to him, and that’s just as unsettling for us as the RCMP as it is for the community,” she said.
When Kamloops Search and Rescue team member Mike Ritcey is training his search dog, Ranger, he takes him to the surrounding area, hoping he might find a clue that leads to answers about what happened.
“He has to be somewhere,” Ritcey said.
“I don’t know what my chances are of finding anything when I come out, but my chances of finding something when I’m not out here is zero.”
Ritcey said the mountain has been searched extensively, and ribbons remain to mark areas that have been searched. His goal is to expand the search area.
“If there was something around here, a leather shoe, a leather belt, a hat or something like that, a dog would pick it up,” he said.
“I feel almost guilty that we can’t find Ryan, can’t bring closure. I really do feel one day somebody’s going to come forward and say something.”
Until then, he said he plans to keep looking.
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