Dave Goertzen replays the last conversation he had with Al Chretien over in his mind frequently.
It was a short interaction right before Chretien was about to cross over the U.S. border at Osoyoos regarding some business affairs Goertzen was going to take care of while Chretien and his wife Rita headed to Las Vegas for a conference. That March 19 phone call was the last time friends or family have heard from the Penticton couple.
When Al didn’t return to work at his business, Rital Enterprises, on the date expected it came as a shock to the employees. Goertzen said Al is a hard-working businessman who even on holidays would stay in contact to make sure things were running smoothly.
“We said take a holiday and relax, that is the hard part here. When he didn’t show up to work some people were joking that maybe he was finally relaxing,” said Goertzen, adding the news of the Chretiens disappearance has also devastated his business contacts who know them as very giving people.
The Chretiens never checked into their hotel in Las Vegas and police have narrowed their search to a southeast corner of Oregon. A convenience store security camera video confirmed the couple entered the store in Baker City, Oregon on March 19 around 2:45 p.m. — it was also the last place their credit card was used.
On Monday at a press conference held by the family at the Penticton RCMP detachment, the couple’s son Raymond Chretien said it was not typical of his parents to just disappear, and in fact, his parents had purchased a cell phone with an American plan to save money on roaming charges when they did call.
“It has just been a crazy situation that no one would have expected us to be in. I have said it before, it seems like the kind of situation you see on TV and that you would never be in yourself, but here we find ourselves,” said Raymond. “Initially, when we first heard the news we had to pick our jaw up off the floor, however, we are trying to keep it together because there is a lot of people that depend on us.”
Chretien family members have been in Oregon searching and even rented a plane to do an aerial search on Saturday. Through social media, the story of the missing couple has gained traction and the family is receiving support from all over the world on their Facebook group titled Missing — Al and Rita Chretien.
“Wherever they are, they are not safe, we know that. They are not safe,” said Raymond, clutching his wife’s hand. “They would have contacted us if they were going to be delayed. Our mind has to be open to both possibilities because it has been approximately two weeks, so lots can happen in two weeks. They could be alive and well, but there is the other alternative and not knowing makes it even harder. It is hard to be patient because we know there is different realities that could have happened here.”
Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said investigators are aware of a similar missing persons file where Grant Moedl, from Idaho, has also disappeared while travelling in the same area the Chretiens were last seen.
“This file outstanding is of a male of similar age, travelling by vehicle. That is about the only similarity,” said Moskaluk. “At this time of the investigation we do not have any information, nor any evidence or avenues that are being pursued in respect to possible foul play. In this day of communications that are available it seems highly unlikely and out of character that (the Chretiens) have not contacted the family, which again brings through why this is so mysterious.”
Police have started to receive tips from the public on the U.S. side of the border and a tip-line has been activated on both sides of the border. Anyone with information about the Chretiens whereabouts or who believe they may have seen the couple or their vehicle are asked to call 1-877-987-8477.