A woman in Ontario said the caretaker who has gone missing since the major fire at the Plaza Hotel in downtown Victoria is her stepson.
Audrey Draeger of Thunder Bay, Ont. said Michael Draeger is the son of her late husband, Ed Draeger.
Draeger said she only just found out about the fire after receiving calls from media. Police have not contacted her yet and have yet to verify any information about Michael Draeger.
Draeger said she last spoke with Michael in 2016 because Michael’s father was ill and she wanted them to say they love each other over the phone, which they did.
“He’s a real loner, very much to himself,” Draeger said. “He was a very standoff-ish boy…I think he had a girlfriend at one time but I really don’t know.”
Michael loved working with his hands and enjoyed fishing, Draeger said. She is hoping he is away on some sort of fishing trip but said she has no way to contact him and see if he is ok. The two of them used to keep in touch through e-mail and he often sent her photos of things he was working on.
“He was an artist,” Draeger said. “He made this fence out of oak and he chiselled the whole thing. It was beautiful.”
Draeger used to send Michael Christmas packages with stollen bread, a traditional German treat. She said she and Michael’s family in Ontario are very worried about him. Draeger said many of them are thinking Michael is dead.
“I cried yesterday and the whole family couldn’t go to sleep,” Draeger said. “We’re all worried about him.”
The last time Draeger saw Michael was in Victoria, about 10 years ago she said. He had been living there for quite some time already. It was also the only time Draeger met Michael in person.
Victoria Police have yet to hear any news of Michael Draeger and his whereabouts. He was known to sometimes occupy the hotel, as well as the chrome Airstream trailer in the hotel’s back alley.
“He had all these dreams to fix it up,” Draeger said. “We loaned him $3,000 to go and buy the Airstream.”
The Victoria Fire Department reported that they don’t believe anyone was in the 603 Pandora Ave. building when it caught fire, but are concerned for the whereabouts of Michael.
After the Plaza Hotel shut down in 2013, Michael was kept on as a live-in caretaker. He lived on the third floor of the building, but his stepmother said she believes he had a workshop in the basement.
Victoria Fire Chief Paul Bruce said that when firefighters first investigated the building, they got up to the third floor before realizing the fire was coming from the basement and had to evacuate.
A former coworker of Michael’s, Wayne Kainciems, said he is close to 60 years old and doesn’t carry a cell phone or have social media accounts.
B. Woodward, who owns the neighbouring Cherry Bomb Toys, told Black Press Media that he hadn’t seen Draeger in a couple days.
“There was a maintenance person taking care of the building, but I think he’s been away for a few days, I haven’t seen him,” said Woodward. “I don’t know if he took off for a few days or if something happened.”
Anyone with information on Michael Draeger is asked to contact the Victoria Police Department’s non-emergency line at 250-995-7654.
– With files from Nicole Crescenzi