Members of Campbell River Search and Rescue help a small child whose raft was caught on the supports of a bridge on July 10. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Looking back on the news of 2018 in Campbell River

A river rescue, the loss of an iconic pub and a summer of fires: just some of what made the news

It was a busy year here at the Mirror. There were triumphs and tragedies in Campbell River throughout 2018, and we were on the scene to tell you about it.

Here are some of the stories that made waves in our community.

The year began with a fatal incident involving all-terrain vehicle riders south of Campbell River. An adult and two youths were swept away while trying to cross a creek on Jan. 21, leading to a major search and rescue operation. One youth was pulled from the water by a passerby, but the other two ATVers died.

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In January, search and rescue teams converged south of Campbell River after ATVers were swept away while attempting to traverse a creek. Photo by Jocelyn Doll/Campbell River Mirror

The local school board became a lightning rod for controversy in March, when a group of local residents began voicing their opposition to the province’s SOGI123 program, which is designed to make schools safe for students of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. Several anti-SOGI candidates ran for a seat on the school board, but all were defeated during elections in October.

Also in March, Campbell River city council passed a motion confirming that it would no longer allow exceptions to its prohibition on “non-standardized” crosswalks. The decision came after vandals destroyed a rainbow crosswalk installed on Shoppers Row ahead of the 2017 Pride Festival.

City council also created a stir in April when it approved the construction of a roundabout at the entrance of the Maritime Heritage Centre. The design of the entrance hadn’t yet been finalized by early December, when the city set aside $500,000 for the work.

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The Royal Coachman, a local institution, closed its doors after 40 years in July. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

In June, the Strathcona Regional District opted for steep hikes in water rates for residents in the northern part of Area D because revenue from the water supply was failing to meet costs. One ratepayer launched legal action to challenge the increase on behalf of outraged residents during the summer. That case is still before the courts and will continue in 2019.

Meanwhile, a beloved local watering hole closed its doors. The Royal Coachman, an iconic neighbourhood pub on Dogwood Street, was in business for 40 years but declined quickly after reports emerged of health violations in its restaurant facilities. Its last day of business was July 9.

July also saw the release of a provincial government audit indicating that 72 per cent of effluence-discharging fish plants were violating the terms of their permits.

The audit was prompted by underwater video shot in 2017 by Quadra Island photographer Tavish Campbell, which showed bloody effluent pouring from the Brown’s Bay Packing Company north of Campbell River.

The audit found that the Brown’s Bay facility – which processes farmed salmon – routinely exceeded its discharge limits during the 2016-2017 period. However, the facility also outperformed certain minimum provincial standards.

A dramatic rescue operation took place on July 10 after several small flotation devices became entangled on the supports of a bridge on the Campbell River. Members of the Campbell River Search and Rescue swift-water team helped the rafters get safely ashore, including at least one small child.

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A helicopter battles flames on a mountainside near Zeballos on Aug. 17. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirrorr

But outdoor recreation also turned tragic for two visitors to the Campbell River area this summer. On July 17, a falling tree killed a 57-year-old woman from 150 Mile House while she was hiking on the Ripple Rock Trail. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests later said the trail had been assessed for danger trees in March.

Less than three weeks later, on Aug. 2, a Dutch tourist drowned at Elk Falls. She had apparently slipped on the rocks after trying to retrieve an apple that had fallen into the fast-moving waters above the falls, according to police. The incident raised fresh questions about safety at the site, which has claimed the lives of several tourists in recent years.

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A Dutch woman drowned after falling into the river at Elk Falls on Aug. 2. Elaine Hall, a visitor from Langford, took this picture of first responders at the scene.

A resident of Petersen Road had a harrowing experience on Aug. 9, when he found that his home had been “ransacked” and was confronted by a man armed with a rifle. The resident fled, and police cordoned off the neighbourhood before making an arrest.

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During a break-and-enter on Aug. 9, a Petersen Road resident encountered a rifle-toting man in his home. Police cordoned off the neighbourhood during the incident. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

In August, lightning sparked dozens of wildfires across the North Island, and hundreds more burned province-wide, contributing to smoky conditions in Campbell River that prompted words of caution from health authorities. It was the worst wildfire season on record, breaking the 2017 record for hectares burned, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

On the North Island, wildfires threatened the only road leading into the village of Zeballos, and falling debris from the steep mountainsides led to an evacuation order for several homes in the tiny coastal settlement on Aug. 18.

Rain quenched the fires in early September, but the evacuation order was expanded due to the risk of slope instability. The order remained in effect by the end of the year.

The Campbell River community pulled together to raise funds for Carihi Secondary School student Jonah Shankar after an MRI showed that a rare, inoperable brain tumour was attached to his brain stem. By late September, community members had raised more than $100,000 to fund specialized treatment in London, England.

Meanwhile, autumn marked an unhappy anniversary for family and friends of Jordan Holling, the teenager who disappeared from Campbellton on Oct. 16, 2017. Police urged anyone with information related to his case to come forward.

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Morgan (left) and Andrea Holling hold a missing poster for their son Jordan Holling, who disappeared from Campbellton on Oct. 16, 2017. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

October also saw the arrest of Richard (“Ricky”) Ernest Alexander, president of the Devils Army Motorcycle Club, which is based in Campbell River. Alexander was charged with first degree murder in connection with the March 2016 death of John Dillon Brown, whose body was found near Sayward.

One of the most disturbing stories of 2018 came late in the year when a man claiming to be a police officer tried to “arrest” a woman in the Willow Point area on Dec. 4, according to the Campbell River RCMP.

Police believe the same man aggressively confronted another woman in her parked car soon afterwards.

Finally, after more than a decade from initial conception, the John Hart Generating Station went fully operational in December, replacing the powerhouse that had served the region’s electricity needs for 71 years.

But the work on the Campbell River system isn’t done yet, as BC Hydro still has a number of years of work ahead of it improving upstream facilities at both the Ladore and Strathcona dams.


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