Marshal Iwaasa’s sister Paige Fogen and her family have returned from their search of a remote area near Pemberton, B.C., where the missing southern Alberta man’s burnt truck still sits.
A trip which Google says should only take 13 hours from Lethbridge, took the group 32 hours both ways due to unexpected incidents and several patches of area where there is absolutely no cell service, according to Fogen.
On Tuesday, Fogen said the family had to turn around and reroute several times on their way to the mountainous area in order to finally reach their destination, despite the maps and specific directions they had.
Iwaasa, 27, was last seen by his family in Lethbridge on Nov. 17, 2019. He told them he was returning to Calgary but hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
A week later, his burned-out vehicle was discovered in the B.C. backcountry near Pemberton.
“There’s no way that he’s driving that in the middle of the night.”
The family arrived in the area Friday afternoon and returned to Lethbridge Monday night.
The Lethbridge police, B.C. RCMP and a private investigative team have been working on the case and had already wrapped up what they called an exhaustive search of the area a few days prior.
Fogen said it only took them a few days to conduct their search in the area.
Additionally, she said a team by the name of 4LOW B.C. reached out to them a little while back and offered to pick them up from their hotel and take them to the truck site, which is exactly what they did this past weekend.
“Their vehicles are equipped and well-prepared to drive us there… in four-by-fouring and rough terrain,” Fogen explained.
“They told our family that it looks like there’s all these extra vehicle parts, there’s all these other things that are at the truck site… it kind of looks odd, like maybe some pieces are missing. We still have to confirm that with police, but it does look odd to us.”
The police have not informed the family of any new breakthroughs in the case during their trip.
The family say they have reason to believe Iwaasa’s vehicle has been stripped for parts after examining it at the site.
Fogen said the family has yet to meet with a team of private investigators to figure out their next steps.
However, they will be working out a strategy to continue pushing police to finally test fingerprints obtained from items located near the torched truck.
In the past, Lethbridge police have said the DNA cannot be tested by the RCMP crime lab unless officers have reasonable grounds to believe a DNA-designated criminal offence has been committed. However, the RCMP are currently not in charge of the case, Lethbridge police are.
Fogen said any requests to see items obtained at the scene or to have anything tested must be made through Lethbridge police.
According to Iwaasa’s sister, clothes and her brother’s expired and current passport were found scattered near the truck along with old broken phones. Some broken gaming devices, which Fogen believes do not belong to him, were also found outside of the vehicle.
Fogen said she was not surprised to learn of some of the items discovered at the scene since Iwaasa had a habit of carrying his passports in his vehicle. She went on to say he also had a habit of breaking his phone frequently and then throwing it into his glove compartment.
She said the family is curious to find out who the broken gaming devices belong to since Iwaasa’s gaming accessories were still at his place when Fogen went to go check.
In the last news release sent out by Lethbridge police, they said they would continue to classify the case as “suspicious” but not criminal.
Family members said this has been incredibly disheartening for them to hear given the odd circumstances surrounding his case, especially with his vehicle being torched, personal items being strewn around the vehicle and also because of the remote location his truck was found in.
“It’s extremely frustrating for it to still be considered a normal missing person’s case and not a criminal investigation,” Fogen said.
“I’m not a police officer, so that line to me is very confusing to me as to why this is not a criminal case at this point.”
Fogen said if anyone would like to follow updates from the family on the case, they can go to the Find Marshal Iwaasa Facebook group page.
Fogen also said her family greatly appreciates all of the support they have received from residents across both Alberta and B.C., adding she realizes that not every missing person’s case receives the kind of attention her brother’s has.