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Beaumont mom of Ryan Shtuka releases book on son’s disappearance at B.C. ski resort

A Beaumont mom whose son went missing from a B.C. ski resort four-and-a-half years ago is overwhelmed by support she’s been shown, after her book hit number 13 on Amazon’s bestsellers’ list and topped the charts in multiple categories.

Heather Shtuka’s son Ryan Shtuka was 20 when he was last seen leaving a party in Sun Peaks, B.C., near Kamloops on Feb. 17, 2018.

Click to play video: 'Rescue dogs help look for missing man Ryan Shtuka'
Rescue dogs help look for missing man Ryan Shtuka

Her book, Missing from Me, tells the story of his disappearance, but it starts with happy memories of times before the tragedy.

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“To me, that was probably the hardest part of the book, just because how do you make something that is so normal and ordinary to you and make it so that readers want to read it?” Shtuka said.

The second part of the book is partially based on blog posts Shtuka began writing three days after Ryan disappeared.

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“Everything is in real time. It gives readers insight into what I was feeling — remembering memories, collecting stories from his friends and people that knew him,” she said.

Shtuka said she felt utterly lost when search and rescue crews stopped looking after just a day.

“There was no direction in which we could rely on to be able to get the search.

“I just remember thinking, ‘We’re not leaving him here. He doesn’t get to be tripped over like he’s trash.'”

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The Shtukas spent four-and-a-half months conducting ground searches, coordinating volunteers and gathering information and skills needed to effectively do search and rescue on their own.

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When the snow melted in the ski town come spring, there was still no trace of Ryan.

His parents moved back to Alberta, and the third part of the book is about transitioning from active searching to becoming an advocate for the families of missing people.

“I thought, there has to be a way that we could take all of this learning and experiences and do something — so that no other family would ever have to experience the sense of helplessness that we did in those first months.”

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Shtuka partnered with three other woman who had suffered similar losses to form The Free Bird Project, a non-profit dedicated to helping the loved ones of missing people.

Shtuka said she’s received supportive messages from people who have been following her story, in both the Edmonton and Kamloops areas.

“People will buy the book and it’s bittersweet because they’re like, ‘I bought the book, I’m so excited to read it.’ And yet that’s not exactly what they mean and I know that. And I’m like, ‘Oh, I hope you love the book.’ And that’s not exactly what I mean,” she said.

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Shtuka hopes reading her work will help people processing difficult times.

“I do hope that the book resonates with people and they find something that rings true for them … something that will help guide them through whatever they may be going through,” she said.

“Maybe 100 years from now, somebody can pick up the story and hear how much this young man was loved and how he mattered and how much of an impact he had on not only us, but hundreds of other people.”

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The paperback was self-published via Tellwell Talent publishing company just two weeks ago. Shtuka was stunned when her book did so well on the Amazon bestsellers’ lists.

“For a debut, unknown (indie) author, to have that kind of response is mind-boggling to me,” she said.

Shtuka’s book is available to order online now.

Click to play video: 'Search intensifies for missing Edmonton man'
Search intensifies for missing Edmonton man

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