Teddy Masales stands in front of his small helicopter, which is parked on a grass patch.

Photo Credit: CTV News

Friends, Family Hope to Solve 24-Year Old Mystery

What happened to Teddy Masales in 1997?

A Port McNeill man with a drone is giving them new hope

On a stormy night in September 1997, Teddy Masales’s helicopter disappeared.

He had been trying to land at the Port Hardy airport. Air traffic control said he couldn’t land right away because another plane was coming in at the same time. But then Teddy and his helicopter never showed up.

Though friends and family have been looking over the years, no one has been able to find the crashed helicopter.

Now there is new hope that the mystery could be solved. Rob Hilts from Port McNeill has been fascinated by the story since he learned about it last year.

“The story was forwarded to me, and I thought, ‘Why not have a look at it? I took a look on Google Earth with some of the different spots it could be,” Hilts told CTV News.

Hilts started by looking at satellite and aerial photos of the area. He says he looked for signs like broken treetops. But, after 24 years of growth in the forests, those signs are hard to find. So when the weather is good, Hilts takes his drone out to places that looked promising in the photographs.

Right now, Hilts is looking around the Quatse River. That’s because last year, a Grade 11 student and her mother found Masales’s wallet near the mouth of the river in Hardy Bay.

Members of a volunteer search group think that landslides that happened last spring and summer may have upset the crash site. That might be how the wallet made its way into the river and then down to the shore.

Every new bit of information brings new hope to Masales’s family. But it’s hard, too. The family never got any closure. Masales’s wife was pregnant when he disappeared, so their son never met his dad.

The Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) hopes to get back in the air this year to help search for Masales’s long-lost helicopter. CASARA tried last year after the wallet was found, but they had to stop because of COVID-19.

CASARA, Masales’s family and friends and Hilt all hope that they can find some clue that will finally unlock this 24-year-old mystery.