'I wish I knew': Alberta mother desperate to find son missing in Sun Peaks
'I'm his mother. I keep thinking … if he's no longer here, would I not feel that? But I don't'
Sleep has eluded Heather Shtuka since her son vanished without a trace from the Sun Peaks Ski Resort in the B.C. Interior last week.
"I try to be strong during the day," Heather Shtuka said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Friday.
"But I find, at night, it tends to be quite difficult. As soon as night hits, it's just another night that he's out there and I can't find him."
Ryan Shtuka, 20, was last seen in the early morning hours of Feb. 17, leaving a house party.
The young man, who lives in Beaumont, Alta., worked the winter season at Sun Peaks. He moved there in December to work as a lift operator at the resort.
After going to the bar with his roommates last Saturday, the group ended up at a home on Burfield Drive, a short five-minute walk from their shared apartment.
When the group left around 1 a.m., his friends thought Ryan was close behind them, but he never made it home.
He hasn't been heard from since.
"He stood up. It looked like he put on his coat," said Heather Shtuka, who travelled from Beaumont to Sun Peaks earlier this week to help in the search effort.
"They thought maybe he was putting on his shoes and they left, thinking he would catch up.
"But when they looked behind them, he wasn't there."
- Kamloops searchers looking for 20-year-old last seen at Sun Peaks party
- Kamloops Search and Rescue end hunt for Sun Peaks man
Police have spoken to some of the people at the party, but the family still doesn't have a clear picture of what happened.
Kamloops Search and Rescue suspended its official search on Monday, but RCMP continue to investigate.
Police have asked residents to check their properties suggesting Shtuka may have made his way into a shed, garage or unlocked vehicle.
Shtuka's mother believes her son may have tried to find refuge from the cold during Saturday's freezing temperatures.
Volunteers have been helping the family search the small resort village for any trace of Ryan, but heavy snowfall and difficult terrain have hampered their efforts.
"People are out all day long," she said. "We're not finding him for lack of effort or determination. It's just that we're not making much progress." Police said in the news release that there have been "no tips that substantiate Ryan left the village of Sun Peaks."
While some may believe Ryan left town, his mother remains skeptical.
"I will accept any possibility at this time, but everything else feels so out of character for him."
Shtuka admits, she doesn't know if her son is alive or dead.
"I'm his mother," Shtuka said. "I keep thinking … if he's no longer here, would I not feel that? But I don't.
"I wish I knew."