Search widens for missing Nelson teacher

Family of Alvin Dunic calls for more volunteers on Sunday

Nelson teacher Alvin Dunic has been missing since midday Monday. Web photo

Nelson teacher Alvin Dunic has been missing since midday Monday. Web photo

They’re not giving up hope.

Today in Crawford Bay 46 volunteers showed up to assist search and rescue crews in attempting to locate Nelson teacher Alvin Dunic, who has been missing since Monday. They’re now putting word out that they could use more than that tomorrow.

“We’re asking anyone who knows and loves Alvin to come join us in Crawford Bay. We’re not going to stop searching until we’ve exhausted every possibility,” family friend Mark Laforet told the Star on Saturday afternoon.

Laforet has been assisting Dunic’s wife Teeka Ferguson and her daughters since Monday. He’s a mental health worker with Interior Health, but made clear that in this case he’s not acting under their purview. For him, this search is personal.

All this means he’s in the hotel room with the family, and along with Ferguson he’s been meeting with search leader Chris Armstrong over the course of each day to get search updates. On Saturday they deployed eight teams of volunteers with a ninth team comprised of Dunic’s family members and sent them out to comb through every inch of the area surrounding the trailhead where Dunic’s car was found.

Today Armstrong said they’ll need more bodies to complete the search in the time frame they want. They’re covering approximately two square kilometres of dense bush.

“We’ve had absolutely no clues, which is apparently a really odd thing. It’s beginning to look like the creek is the most likely scenario.”

And they won’t be able to properly search the creek for another two weeks, because water levels are too high. Dive teams have been able to search underwater at the river’s mouth on Kootenay Lake and boats have been launched to eyeball the surface and search the bottom with a sonar array — all to no avail.

Laforet said the community is having a tough time.

“The other teachers, especially, I think they’re really upset and we’ve met with them a couple of times. Everyone in this community knows Alvin. Now that I’m known as Teeka’s friend, I can’t go anywhere in town without people having tears jump into their eyes when they see me,” he said.

And the community outpouring has been very therapeutic for Ferguson and her daughters, Laforet said. They’re particularly grateful to the hotel they’ve been staying in, paid by for the province, and to the nearby ashram for delivering food.

In the meantime, the search continues.

“Some people were scared away thinking it would be really gruelling, but I’ve been watching the teams and it’s really not so bad. There’s opportunities to rest, and it’s not quite as marathon as it sounds. The point is, we’ll find a way to make use of you.”

Criteria for joining the search

Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age and capable of a minimum of six hours of sustained physical activity. They must show picture ID and the following gear is mandatory: long pants, long sleeves, hiking boots, bug spray, sunscreen, eye protection, food, and water.

Volunteers will be turned away if they are lacking any of these.

Bus transportation will be provided from the Kootenay Bay ferry terminal at 8:45 a.m. and from the school at 4:45 p.m.

Trained rescue personnel have been searching since then, including 20 Search and Rescue technicians, two search dog teams, a fixed wing aircraft and five divers.

Ferguson posted the notice on Facebook.

“Looking forward to seeing you at the search tomorrow,” she wrote.

“Anyone who fits the criteria please come— let’s find Alvin!”

-with files from Bill Metcalfe