‘Amber’s Army’ starts new search for missing Port Alberni woman at Nanaimo gravel pit

'Amber's Army' starts new search for missing Port Alberni woman at Nanaimo gravel pit

Volunteers fanned out over backroads, gravel pits and trails south of Nanaimo where missing 40-year-old Port Alberni woman Amber Manthorne’s Jeep was found in a ditch over a week earlier.

“I just hope we find something. We want answers and I hope we find something,” said Manthorne’s friend, Melissa Thomas.

The scene is over 100 kilometres from the 40-year-old’s Great Central Lake home, where she was last seen on July 7 after she reportedly told a friend she was about to meet with her ex-boyfriend, Justin Hall. She was reported missing on the morning of July 8 when she didn’t show up for work and her white Jeep Compass was found on a logging road south of Nanaimo.

Originally Hall disappeared as well, then surfaced days later saying he’d lost his phone and after an argument with Manthorne had to get away for a few days.

Right away friends and family say they were worried, and the RCMP’s Island District Major Crimes Unit was on the case. Friends, family and volunteers — calling themselves “Amber’s Army” — started grid searching the Alberni lakes and logging roads around Manthorne’s home on Great Central Lake in Port Alberni.

“It’s surreal. I never imagined in a million years we’d be searching for someone so close to us.  And so many are connected to,” said friend Michelle Laventure.

On Saturday, there were over 100 volunteers out searching for the 40-year-old — using dogs, trucks, ATV’s, drones and kayaks to comb through vast swaths of land and water spanning from the Alberni Valley to Nanaimo.

“We had over 100 people ground searching yesterday in different areas of interest, literally hundreds of people that came out collected posters and information and went out o their own in their side by sides, quads, horses, boats,” said friend and search organizer Kristie St. Claire.

RELATED: Volunteers comb backroads, lakes in search for missing Port Alberni woman Amber Manthorne

Now, those volunteers, which remain in the hundreds, are refocusing their efforts from Alberni to Ninatti Road near Nanaimo. Search and rescue teams have been there, but more searchers on ATVs and dirt bikes are joining, to explore areas that haven’t yet been seen.

“I’m feeling a lot more optimistic because it helps us exclude the possibility of her being out there, needing us to find her. So we’re feeling pretty confident that she’s not in our area so now we’re just going to eliminate the possibility of her being in this area,” said St. Claire.

Sunday marked 10 days since Amber Manthorne was reported missing and the heavy weight of what volunteers may find is beginning to set in.

“It is a little alarming,” said searcher, Greg Kostyshyn.

“A little bit scary. Ominous kind of. You don’t really know,” added searcher, Heather Lytle.

The search in Nanaimo is expected to continue right through the week until searchers are confident they’ve looked everywhere that Manthorne could still be.

RELATED: Friends expand search for missing Alberni woman

Amber Manthorne, 40, of Port Alberni was reported missing on the morning of July 8 when she didn’t show up for work. (Photo supplied)

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Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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