The friends and family of a Squamish man who is missing in Manitoba are raising money for a private investigator to help with the search for Keith Zajac.
On Aug. 11, both his wife and a friend of the family told The Squamish Chief that a GoFundMe has been started to raise $10,000 to cover the costs of an investigator.
Pam Zajac and Sandy Yates said they are hoping an investigator will be able to speed up the process and assist in helping Zajac return home safely.
Mounties said 55-year-old Zajac was driving from Squamish to Fort Frances, Ont., when he went missing. It is believed he spent the night of July 31 at the Super 8 Hotel in Brandon, Man.
He was officially reported missing on Aug. 2, and, on Aug. 5, RCMP issued a news release asking the public for help finding him.
"Share his face far and wide, and, if you see him, just help him, and get him to safety. Get it reported," said Pam. "I just want him to come home."
She said last week, there was a large ground search in Brandon that included many volunteers, officers, dogs and drones. However, Zajac still remains missing.
The pair said that Zajac, a 20-year resident of Squamish, last made contact with family via phone on July 31.
Leading up to that, Zajac appeared to be having problems with the hot weather, which, at the time, was triggering heat warnings from Environment Canada.
"He had been feeling sick. I think he'd been throwing up… he was a bit worried that he might have had heatstroke, because the car that he was driving in didn't have any air conditioning," Yates said.
Police found Zajac's abandoned vehicle on the shoulder of Highway 1 in the municipality of Whitehead.
The primary theory is that Zajac was experiencing distress as a result of the heat, became disoriented, and then got lost, said Yates. Zajac does not have a history of mental health issues, medical conditions or drug use.
"We're not feeling at this point like he was carjacked or anything like that. That seems to have slipped down in priority on the suspicions list. More [likely] that he's abandoned [his vehicle]. And possibly just wandered off," she said.
Yates said hotel staff reported Zajac appeared to be very confused when he checked into the Super 8 in Brandon.
The day after, on Aug. 1, there were three sightings of Zajac, she said.
In the early morning, he was seen on foot in the woods in Brandon near a river. A bystander checked on him, but he said he was fine.
Then he was seen again in Brandon on the Trans-Canada Highway, looking as if he was attempting to hitchhike a ride eastbound. He was seen again on the Trans-Canada slightly west of Brandon, seemingly trying to hitchhike westbound.
On Aug. 5, after officers and family had been pinging Zajac's phone, it was handed in to officers by people who had somehow come across it, Yates said. It's unclear how they got ahold of Zajac's phone.
She said the circumstances are difficult, especially considering Zajac and his wife hit a big milestone about five weeks ago. The couple had just moved into a new house in Crumpit Woods.
Yates said friends and family are going through a rough time and are hoping that Zajac, who works in construction, can return home as quickly as possible.
The online fundraiser can be found on www.gofundme.com by searching Funding to support private search to find Keith
If you have information on his whereabouts, please call Blue Hills RCMP at 204-726-7522, call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477 or share tips online at www.manitobacrimestoppers.com.