It was a bittersweet evening for hundreds of Sudburians as the opening evening of the Walden Winter Carnival gave way to a candlelight vigil for Ward 2. Coun. Michael Vagnini, who’s been missing for nearly two weeks. With Vagnini normally the star of the annual event, fur hat and all, his community came together to light his way home Thursday night.
Family, friends, neighbours, community members and city council colleagues took part in the vigil next to T.M. Davies Community Centre in Lively. Held beside the carnival’s annual bonfire and just after the fireworks, there was joy tinged with sadness. Karen Makela, Vagnini’s longtime friend, spoke on behalf of his family.
His partner and daughters stood nearby, the light of their candles flickering against the sequins of Vagnini’s trademark blazers, which they brought to the vigil.
“As we stand together, let us draw strength from each other, let our collective hope fuels our determination to never give up our search, to never lose faith, and to never cease our efforts until Michael is reunited with his family and his community,” Makela told the attendees, before speaking directly to Vagnini’s family.
To them, she said: “We stand by you with unwavering support; though the road ahead may seem daunting, know that you do not walk it alone. Our community here is here to lift you up, to embrace you, and to provide you with whatever strengths and comfort you may need during this trying time.”
Makela spoke of Vagnini as “a beacon of service and dedication to our city,” and though his absence was deeply felt, she advised community members to “draw strength from his example, his tireless commitment to making our community a better place.
“As we gather here tonight, let us channel that same spirit of resilience and determination. As we come together to support one another in our search for Michael, together, let us remain steadfast and hopeful for it as hope that sustains us through the darkest of times.”
In closing, she thanked the community, first responders and search teams for their work, as well as friends who have “tirelessly reached out, cared for us and joined in the search for Michael.”
On behalf of the family, she said. “Your unwavering support means the world to us and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Mayor Paul Lefebvre attended the event along with many Greater Sudbury city councillors.
The mayor said he and Vagnini, who represents the Walden area, would normally speak at the Walden Winter Carnival’s opening ceremonies together.
“We're all hoping for a safe return to his family and to friends and to council as well,” said Lefevbre. “That's why we need to have a vigil. Everybody will have a candlelight representing a beacon to show him the way.”
Lefebvre added the community turnout at the vigil in honour of Vagnini shows “how important he is for this community.”
The search for Vagnini continues
Although no ground search was scheduled for Friday, detectives have continued following up on tips from the public regarding the disappearance of local city councillor Michael Vagnini.
Tips can be submitted to Greater Sudbury Police Services’ dedicated line, 705-675-9171, ext. 2320.
Vagnini, 62, was last seen on Jan. 27 driving a black 2021 Ram 1500 truck with Ontario licence plate BK 22178. It has a broken passenger side tail light.
He is described as: 62 years of age, male, white, 5-11 tall, 260 lbs, with short, black hair and an unshaven face.
Vagnini was last seen wearing a bright yellow hooded sweater, green pants and black running shoes. Earlier in the day, he was seen wearing an Erie Otters jersey over top of the yellow hooded sweater. He does not have his phone with him.
Vagnini requires medications, but has none with him, according to the initial GSPS media release issued on Jan. 28, which noted, “As a result, he may appear confused or disoriented”
Family and police report being concerned for his well-being.
To date, Greater Sudbury police have received 40 tips, spokesperson Kaitlyn Dunn told Sudbury.com this morning.
Police have also continued speaking with family, friends and community members regarding their interactions with Vagnini and what he said.
Although his vehicle’s Sirius XM was accessed at approximately 2:45 a.m. on Jan. 28., the vehicle’s last sighting was approximately 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 27, westbound on McCharles Lake Road, between Whitefish and Naughton.
Any new “last seen” point that arises will be pursued by police with aerial searches, ground canvasses and a public call-out for video surveillance footage of the area.
“There is a potential that he could have travelled a substantial distance in that time, well beyond the boundaries of our community and there is always a potential that he travelled by means other than his personal vehicle,” Dunn said earlier this week.
“We are alive to every possibility and until a time where we can say for certain that this did not occur, we will continue to explore every option.”
With the possibility Vagnini is no longer in the Greater Sudbury area, all law enforcement and criminal justice agencies across Canada have been notified alongside a description of his vehicle.
Vagnini’s licence plate and description of the vehicle have been provided to all law enforcement agencies in the province that have Automatic Licence Plate Readers. If the vehicle is captured on an ALPR, Greater Sudbury detectives will be notified.
Detectives continue to check medical facilities, and through the Missing Persons Act have applied for and been granted access to personal health information that is protected under the Personal Health Information Protection Act.
Sirius XM, cellular companies and banking establishments associated with Vagnini have been notified and Detectives will be notified of any activity on any of his accounts.
The following is the latest known timeline of events:
- Friday evening (Jan. 26): On Friday night, Vagnini posted on Facebook that he was looking into purchasing a fire truck and water rescue craft for Beaver Lake.
- Saturday, daytime (Jan. 27): At some point during the day, Vagnini posed for a photo with Freedom Convoy protesters during their weekly gathering outside of Bell Park.
- Saturday evening: Vagnini was reported missing to GSPS.
- Sunday, 2:45 a.m. (Jan. 28): The Sirius XM radio in Vagnini’s truck is accessed.
- Sunday, noon: GSPS issued their first media release indicating that Vagnini is a missing person, prompting numerous community members to begin their own searches parallel to efforts by GSPS.
With files from Tyler Clarke.
Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com.