It’s been six days since 16-year-old Andre Courtemanche left his Langford home, went up the steep backyard path behind his family’s house and turned onto the railway tracks, disappearing into the darkness.
The teen hasn’t been seen since.
A missing youth alert has been circulating since Jan. 2, and more than 1,000 people have joined a Facebook group dedicated to finding Andre, but there have been no successful leads.
Andre’s parents, Glenn and Denise Courtemanche, have spent every day searching for their son since he left.
“We miss you Andre, please come home,” pleaded Glenn. “You’re loved at home, and we want you to come back and be with mom and dad.”
The tracks behind the Courtemanche home, located in the 2900-block of Cressida Crescent, connect to the E&N trail. A backyard security camera, which tracks movement inside the yard, only picks up movement roughly every 40 seconds, and even with footage of Andre leaving, it’s hard to tell with certainty whether he went east or west.
“There’s just so many possibilities because if he took the Great Canadian Trail … he could branch off into Sooke or Metchosin or keep heading out of town,” Denise said.
|Andre Courtemanche, 16, was last seen leaving his parents Langford home on Jan. 1 wearing a blue and black fleece coat, blue jogging pants and hiking boots. Police ask people using parks and trails in Langford and the Victoria area to keep an eye out for him. (Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
He left without a cell phone, wearing a fleece jacket and hiking boots.
Around 2 a.m. the morning after Andre left, his parents went out into the dark and rainy wilderness behind their home and started to search for their son.
Andre struggles with depression and anxiety, his parents noted, and had expressed thoughts of hurting himself. Concerns around suicide led his parents to the Goldstream Trestle.
“We got up to the trestle at five in the morning from our house, and I walked across the trestle calling for my son,” Glenn Courtemanche said, his words dissolving to tears.
Andre was bullied when he attended Belmont Secondary School but started to show signs of improvement after he was moved to the West Shore Centre for Learning.
However, those improvements seemed to be worn away by the effects of the pandemic, Denise said. Unable to see family he’s close to, Andre became more withdrawn and isolated.
“He’s always been an introvert,” Denise said. “And he’s had friends but he’s not really outgoing. He loves his family. He’s really sweet. He loves nothing more than to be able to see his relatives.”
Andre loves camping and hiking and knows how to survive outdoors for some time.
“He’s disappeared before but only for a few hours,” Denise said. “Usually he’ll storm off, cool down and come right back.”
West Shore RCMP and search and rescue teams have aided in the search for Andre, but there’s been no sign of him, and no evidence has turned up to help authorities narrow their search.
Andre has family in Cowichan and might have headed that direction, his parents note, but it’s also possible he had contacts through the video games he played. His parents speculate that he is sheltering in an RV or outbuilding and ask people to check those structures if they have any on their property.
For Andre’s family, the last six days have been draining, physically and emotionally. But the non-stop search for Andre has been bolstered by the support of their community. More than 1,000 people have joined the Searching for Andre Courtemanche Facebook group, posting areas they’ve searched and suggesting new places to look.
“People are reaching out and wanting to help us – relatives and friends are reaching out – it’s just amazing,” Denise said. “But I worry about the day that stops. And I hope we find him before then.”
Andre is described as Caucasian, standing 5’10” and weighing about 185 pounds. He has six to seven-inch long light brown hair and a light neck beard. When he was last seen, he was wearing a blue and black fleece coat, blue jogging pants and brown hiking boots. He had a headlamp with him.
If you see Andre, call 911 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.