Never forgotten: Kootenay man still missing after 20 years

Never forgotten: Kootenay man still missing after 20 years

Bryan Gay disappeared in Skagway Alaska Sept. 26, 2000

After 20 years there’s been no trace found of Bryan Gay after he went missing near the small town of Skagway, Alaska.

He’s just gone.

While the mysterious disappearance of the Montrose native has long since faded from the headlines, his family’s thoughts, questions, and searing pain about what could have happened to Charles Bryan Gay — who went by Bryan — are as strong today as the day he vanished, Sept. 26, 2000.

“I always want to talk about Bryan, doesn’t matter whether I have tears or not,” his mom, Mary Gay, shared with the Times.

“I think of him every day. I even had a dream one time that he opened our back door and walked in,” she tearfully recounted.

“I said, “Hi Brian, where have you been?”

Mary remembers the joy of the moment feeling it was true, but cold reality set in when she opened her eyes to an empty room, and no Bryan.

Her boy was still gone.

She still lives in the family’s Montrose home. But after years of waiting for him to walk through the door especially at Christmas, Mary can now say out loud that she is certain Bryan is dead.

“Everybody loved him, he was such as sweetheart,” she said in a mix of laughter and tears. “But no, he is not alive. If he was, he would have been in contact with us.”

More Trail Times stories here: Local stories

Latest on coronavirus is here: COVID-19

The day was Tuesday when her son, then 28, went missing.

He was a university-graduated geologist who was highly experienced in the rugged back country, having just finished working his third summer at a job in Whitehorse.

Before heading back home to B.C., a friend drove Bryan to the bus station where he bought a ticket to Skagway and once there, checked in to a hostel.

Mary says her son wanted to hike a popular wilderness trail into the Dewey Lakes, located in an alpine range that begins right at the edge of town.

He left on his adventure that morning and was never seen again.

Bryan Gay of Montrose went missing in Skagway Alaska on Sept. 26, 2000. (Charley Project photo)

Searchers scoured the mountains and for many months, no sign of the young geologist turned up anywhere.

The last trace of Brian’s known path was found a year later in an old cabin at the top of Upper Dewey Lake, which is straight up the mountain about five kilometres from the village of 968 people.

A search and rescue team came across a sign-in book inside the mountain-top shack, which held pages of “made-it-to-the-top” signatures so hikers could read who finished the trek before them.

The book was somewhat ravaged by time and elements. But, by happenstance, one of the searchers noticed faded pen markings that, in just the right light, revealed a scratch-note from Brian.

“Great day, great hike, but this goddamn pen ran out of ink. Brian G.”

Mary remembers the community rallying to raise money for the family to travel to Skagway and retrace her son’ steps the following spring. They even consulted a psychic to help guide their journey through Skagway in early 2001.

She recalls so much goodwill from locals and those up north, all helping to emotionally and financially support their searches made that first year with a rented motor home serving as base camp.

Brother Kevin Gay travelled back to the Alaskan town for years hoping to find a clue of what happened to his younger brother. Youngest sibling Mary Ann was first on stage in Kelowna seven years ago to ask internationally known spiritual medium Sylvia Browne if she could tell her anything about her missing brother.

All roads led to nowhere.

(Story from the Trail Times, October 2000)

(Story from the Trail Times, October 2000)

Nothing has every been found of Bryan other the note he left behind in that remote trapper’s shack.

Twenty years on Mary has submitted her DNA for forensics should this cold case ever be solved.

She’s kept herself going by giving back to others in so many ways, such as sitting on Montrose council, and by volunteering for the Legion, community events, senior dinners, food banks and of course, for her treasured Beaver Valley Nitehawks.

Mary is now 78. She keeps her sights on the days ahead, but never far behind is her fierce longing that Brian will someday be found and brought home to rest in peace alongside his dad Butch Gay, a kind and loving man who passed away five years ago.

“All we can do is hope and pray that something will come out of this,” Mary smiled. “Because things have been found 20 years later in other (cases), so you just don’t know. And we still think of him every single day.”



newsroom@trailtimes.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

kootenaymissing person

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

Item no 22, De-Kieviet Kindergarten class - Highlands, Starting Bid: $20
Christmas Village 2020 school auction items

The annual Christmas Village has gone virtual, here are the auction items from local schools

1913
It happened in 1913

Nov. 22 - 28: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the newspapers at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

2020
Urban wildlife Part VI: The East Kootenay birds of autumn

The work of local photographers printed in the pages of the East Kootenay Advertiser throughout 2020. Part VI.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

The bids for the 2020 Christmas Village are open as of noon on Thursday, November 26. Please scroll through this album to see auction items available for bidding.
Christmas Village 2020 auction items

The Christmas Village has gone virtual, here are all the details

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Most Read