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Superboat chase

It looked like a scene from a James Bond movie. A speed boat was being chased by a helicopter on Okanagan Lake Thursday morning and it was creating a 'wake' with some residents. A few people even thought it was a police chase.

But it was not, it was a Vector V-40 high performance speed boat built in Kelowna. The vessel was being put through a series of tests before it's shipped off to Monaco to ferry around VIPs during the Monaco Grand Prix. Then it will make its way to England for the London to Monte Carlo endurance race.

“It has twin V-10s in it, it runs 110 miles an hour,” explains Rex Jardine, owner of Vector Power Boats from Kelowna.

The V-40 is the most prestigious and most powerful boat Vector has ever built.

“Start to finish, the build took about four months and it’s been a lot of late nights during the last week or so just to get it out on the water.”

Purchased for a price in the seven figure range, the boat had to be tested before it made its journey over the Atlantic to Monaco.

“It was so unbelievable, we were so pleased,” says Jardine of the test run. “We had next to no glitches and it is world class, it can compete with anything out there. The company that bought it is Martini, owned by Bacardi. They run two Formula One cars so they can buy a boat from anyone, so we are proud to be associated with them.”

The helicopter, owned by Valhalla, that followed the boat during its test run was filled with photographers and a camera crew they were shooting the V-40's big debut.

While some Kelowna residents thought the morning spectacle was a police chase, others complained to the RCMP filing noise complaints.

“I was driving the boat and I couldn’t talk to the gentleman next to me,” says Jardine. “We don’t like to make this much noise, but for an hour or two every couple of years, that we have to do a shake down, I apologize, but we employ a great group of people.”

During the London to Monte Carlo Venture Cup Race the boat will travel over 2,400 miles in 15 days visiting 11 cities and five countries.

Vector Power Boats is also making waves in the security business. They have recently been offered a contract with an Israeli aerospace company to build unmanned drone boats, used for surveillance.

“We will be running the drone boat (on Okanagan Lake) probably in about four months, and I am not sure if the police pull it over, who they will ticket,” jokes Jardine.

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Break-in caught on camera

A pair of thieves on BMX bikes managed to break into an apartment complex on Mills Road early Thursday morning.

According to police thieves broke into the building at 345 Mills Road shortly before 1:30 a.m.

They gained entry into the underground parking garage, smashed windows in at least five vehicles and made off with some contents.

Police are still trying to determine what was taken.

According to Scott, one of the victims, his car alarm scared the perpetrators away.

"One (thief) has a distinctive jacket. Both bikes have distinctive designs on the handlebars, and one bike has a basket," he says.

He says thieves were able to take a backpack from the back seat of his car.

The backpack contained:

  • Lenovo Laptop
  • External hard drive
  • Two Xbox controllers
  • Small notebook with sentimental value

A reward is being offered for its return.

If you have information concerning the break-in contact Kelowna RCMP or Crime Stoppers.



Kelowna man pleads guilty

Ryan Follack has pled guilty in court to charges stemming from the death of a woman in New Westminster last year.

Follack was arrested back in February and charged with Drive Without Due Care and Drive without Reasonable Consideration.

He pled guilty to both charges on Wednesday.

Charges were laid after Gemma Snowball was struck by a motor vehicle in the intersection of 6 Street and 6 Avenue in New Westminster on March 12 of last year.

She passed away as the result of her injuries.

The New Westminster Police Department conducted an extensive investigation which included the Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Team along with independent experts who were able to assist with the investigation.

That investigation led to charges being laid.

Follack will return to court Aug 8 following a pre-sentence report.



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Premier talks 2nd crossing

Kelowna City Council had a chance to sit down with the Premier during Christy Clark's brief tour through her Westside-Kelowna riding Wednesday.

The Premier was in town to announce $100,000 in government funding for Skate Canada International which comes to Kelowna at the end of October and the completion of flood mitigation work to McDougal Creek in West Kelowna.

Kelowna Mayor, Walter Gray says the meeting was held in camera, meaning he can't discuss specifics.

"What I (can) tell you without divulging the contents of the meeting would be to say the agenda dealt mainly with transportation issues including the predictable which would be the eventual second crossing of Okanagan Lake and other matters in which partnerships between the province and local government would be appropriate" says Gray.

Gray characterized the meeting as excellent saying it was productive.

"She and her government and our little wee council here up country BC seem to be wanting to go in the same direction together into the future."

Speaking to a proposed second crossing, Gray earlier this week said he was thrilled at news, first brought to light on Castanet, that the province had earmarked $2M for start of the planning process into a second bridge.

"I think that's excellent. First it funds the process...but what it obviously says is it's proof positive they are serious about actually starting this far ahead of the construction need," says Gray.

"What we as local governments, including Westbank First Nation, have pledged, with our professional people in transportation, is to work Ministry of Highways to lay out the eventual corridor across the lake."

Gray says it is still the city's wish that a second cross land somewhere near Poplar Point or in the general area of the Tolko mill.

During a brief stop in Kelowna Wednesday, Premier Clark acknowledged the planning has begun but cautioned it will take some time.

"A major infrastructure project like that with all the related improvements that need to happen on either side of the lake will take some time. But the discussion has begun," says Clark.

"It could take up to a decade to get there but if we put it off for another two years it will be a decade after that. We need to get started."

 



The cat came back ....

Annie is home.

The now famous Buckerfield's cat that was catnapped Saturday from her store home in Kelowna was back in the shop Wednesday greeting customers.

After four days on the road with strangers Annie was turned into RCMP in Ashcroft and brought back to Kelowna safe and sound.

The store is relieved she is happy and healthy, yet has chosen not to charge the cat-nappers who made a mistake, but ended up doing the right thing by returning Annie.

Store Manager Jeff Cameron says, it all began this past Saturday April 12, when a couple, in their 50’s, came into the store, picked up Annie and left.

He says a regular customer just so happened to be coming in at the same time and mentioned that Annie was leaving the store in someone's arms. Store employee, and the one closest with Annie, Chelsea ran outside and chased the truck that took off with Annie inside.

“As she got close to the vehicle, both people kind of looked and pointed at Chelsea and away they went. The first thing she did was call the RCMP,” said Cameron

Cameron says the RCMP responded quickly and were very helpful.

In addition to the RCMP, local media became involved and Castanet’s original article detailing the theft garnered over 140,000 views.

“Instantly the response to Annie was tremendous, within an hour there were several thousand hits on the Castanet article and this thing was exploding,” said Cameron.

The Okanagan community then rallied behind the store trying to identify the vehicle with Annie inside.

“It was a very distinctive truck. A Dodge truck with an orangey colour that was very unique with a black spoiler,” said Cameron.

Someone even called from the Dodge dealership to tell them it was a very limited truck, with only seven in the Okanagan.

Through local media he believes the cat nappers saw the story, felt bad and turned themselves into the RCMP in Ashcroft.

Cameron says the cat thieves had been in Kelowna on Saturday, at the SCPA, looking to replace a cat of theirs that had recently died. The couple was first told to pick up a cat carrier from Buckerfield’s before they could take home an SPCA cat and when they saw Annie, it reminded them of their own cat.

“And I think in the spur of the moment they just picked her up and left.”

They turned her in to the Ashcroft RCMP and without any incident.

Chelsea drove to Kamloops and picked her up last night.

Cameron has said no one will be pressing charges.

“We are not that kind of people and you know we all make mistakes in life and what would be the benefit to us, or anybody?” 

He also says another person called the store this morning to say they have a cat that also looks like Annie and wants to donate it to the couple. That person was directed to contact the Ashcroft police in order to get in touch with the cat nappers.

“At the end of the day, life goes on and Annie is happy to be home I guess, and we’ll have a big party for her next weekend.”

He says Buckerfield's is hosting a 'Come and see Annie party' and a thank you to the 'community party' the weekend of April 25. There will be free burgers, hotdogs and pictures with Annie and hopefully a petting zoo, and donations to the SPCA will be accepted. He says details will be determined soon.

Cameron adds that the response has really been overwhelming with people bringing in toys, prizes and money so Annie can get a GPS microchip put in.

With that response and the happy ending Cameron says charging the thieves would not be the right thing to do.

“We have nothing against these people, they made a mistake. They know they made a mistake – they turned her in.”

Annie will now continue her rather 'set in stone life' of doing what she wants on her terms. She will continue to go and come from the store as she pleases, sleep in the warehouse at night, keep birds away from the bird seed, visit nearby businesses, love big dogs and hate little dogs, bring in a live mouse from the nearby field to play with once in a while and of course, greet customers everyday.

“I have never met a cat with such neat personality, almost human like,” says Cameron fondly.

“At the end of the day it is a very happy story, with a very happy ending.”

Annie would say it is a 'purrfect' ending.



City has eyes on you

 

Commit a crime around a downtown Kelowna park and chances are 'Big Brother' is watching you.

Several city owned cameras have been installed in the city's downtown area over the past couple of years to provide citizens and tourists with an 'increased level of security.'

"People will have noticed last year we put cameras up at Stuart Park. There is also a camera at the new washroom in City Park and a new camera installed at Queensway," says Kelowna's risk manager, Lance Kayfish.

Cameras have also been installed at the foot of Lawrence and Leon avenues across from entrances to City Park.

The Leon Avenue camera replaces one the RCMP had installed, but has since decommissioned.

"That camera network is to create an increased level of security and monitor City Park and (other) city parks," says Kayfish.

"The ones at Lawrence and Leon can look into what are two major entrances to and from City Park."

Kayfish says it doesn't make sense to pepper the park with cameras, so instead, they are covering two of the major routes in and out of the park.

"By covering the entrances and exits on major routes it gives us some images of the area we can use for different safety measures."

The downtown system was made possible by a $150,000 grant the City received from the provincial government a few years ago.

Kayfish says the grant allowed the City to cost effectively build a back-end system to the point where the incremental cost of adding new cameras to the system was quite inexpensive.

The City also has security cameras at both the Parkinson Rec Centre (PRC) and Rutland Arena.

"In both locations there are ones that point at the parking lot for staff and public safety.

At the PRC we also have cameras outside the locker room."

Some municipalities have cameras inside change rooms, however, Kayfish says the City has not and will not go there.

"We also have cameras at a lot of our water reservoirs for operational reasons as well as from a security perspective."

"If someone was tampering with...or something caused the water to be contaminated we could review the video for that purpose."

Kayfish cautions cameras are not monitored by staff, in fact, strict guidelines are in place regarding who can view the tapes and why.

"There are very strict controls over who can view the video, even stricter controls about who can review the video and again, even stricter controls over who can create a recording," says Kayfish.

"For the RCMP to be able to review or get a copy of the video - they need to make a formal request to the city to get it. That said if something happens a city staff person could sit down with a member of the RCMP and review the video with them and if they decide they want a copy they would then have to fill out the paperwork."

He says surveillance cameras are one more tool to ensure public safety.

"I always stress the City of Kelowna is in the business of public safety but we are also in the business of protecting citizens interests and rights.

Protection of people's privacy is paramount which is why we have tight controls on who can see the video, who can review the video and who can potentially take a recording of the video in increasing levels of accountability."

Kayfish says the surveillance system also provides some flexibility and 'cool' features.

"For instance if we set up at a location where we suspect graffiti is a problem we can program the camera so it will send us an email or an alarm saying graffiti is happening. It will recognize what is happening."

A similar system is being used at Kelowna International Airport.

Kayfish says cameras are programmed in such a way that if someone drops or leaves a bag, security will be alerted after a specified time that the bag has been left behind.

He stresses that, while the City does have the ability to monitor the security system at any time, it is something the City doesn't do.

What do you think about the city being wired with cameras? Send us your thoughts to [email protected]

 

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Ready for the world

The provincial government is throwing its financial support behind a major figure skating event coming to Kelowna later this year.

With members of the Kelowna Figure Skating Club providing the backdrop, Premier Christy Clark, announced the province will kick in $100,000 to support Skate Canada International to be held Oct. 30 to Nov 1 at Prospera Place.

“This is a celebration of sport, of people, young men and women who have dedicated their lives to be absolutely the best. It's a celebration and an opportunity for people all across the country to watch and aspire,” Clark told a press conference Wednesday morning.

“To see what hard work, dedication, commitment and a belief in yourself can give you. Not just a medal, not just recognition, but the kind of character that everyone of these people demonstrates every day in order to succeed.”

Clark says the province put forth the money to ensure the event came to Kelowna not only for the figure skating fans of the province, but for the economic benefits as well.

“When this competition was held in New Brunswick (2013) it generated about $4M worth of spin-offs for local small businesses. New Brunswick is lovely, but it ain't Kelowna,” chuckled the premier.

“What I particularly like about today's announcement is it's really going to put this city, the Okanagan and British Columbia on the map with millions of television viewers and you can't buy that stuff,” added Mayor Walter Gray.

It was estimated two million Canadians and another 25 million worldwide tuned into the 2013 Skate Canada International competition.

Skate Canada will bring together some of the top competitors from as many as 15 countries competing in men's, ladies, dance and pairs events.

A year ago, Canadians Patrick Chan and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the men's and ice dance competitions respectively.

“This is a big event. It is an opportunity to bring the best skaters in the world to communities across Canada.,” says Skate Canada Chief Marketing Officer, Mark Halliday.

“For people to come out and see these skaters and be inspired to be their best, whether it's on the ice or in life. We want to inspire everyone, but the real joy is when you can inspire the youth and motivate them to compete and bring out their best.”



Car wash brushed off

Good business - wrong location.

That was the feeling of Kelowna City Council before it unanimously shot down a proposed car wash in a residential area of Glenmore.

A standing room only crowd packed council chambers for Tuesday's 6 p.m. public hearing, prompting council to move the item to the top of the agenda.

Most of the 125 in attendance were opposed to the car wash proposed for a vacant lot on Glenmore Road across from Watson Road Elementary School.

Council believed the lot was too small and the wrong shape. They expressed concerns over the impact to both the neighbourhood and Brandt's Creek Linear Park.

City Clerk Stephen Fleming says councillors praised the proponents application, but agreed it was the right business at the wrong location.

He says council hopes the applicants will consider another location believing the Glenmore area is under serviced when it comes to car washes.



Teams needed for PlayOn!

It has been a tough go so far for organizers of Hockey Night in Canada’s Play On! Kelowna.

After a stellar turnout at last year’s street hockey tournament, they say only a dozen or so teams have signed up for the 2014 event.

The tournament will take place the weekend of May 24 at the same location – outside of Prospera Place.

Project Manager Lauren Foss hopes to see 100 teams sign up by the beginning of May, and teams registering before May 2 will go into a draw for a signed Canucks hat, along with other prizes.

Each player in the event receives a commemorative Hockey Night in Canada's Play On! t-shirt and an assortment of items from both national and local sponsors.

Top teams will go on to play in the national championship and last year's winning team on the men’s side walked away with $40,000 cash.

More information can be found on the PlayOn! website.



The story of Gloria & me

Jennifer Zielinski

Assigned to cover the story of Gloria Taylor’s fight to die with dignity, two local Kelowna filmmakers ventured out on their most personal, heart wrenching endeavour yet.

Taylor was at the centre of a successful BC Supreme Court Challenge that briefly overturned the ban on assisted suicide. CBC’s The Fifth Estate would follow Taylor’s battle through the courtroom and through ALS, but the two cinematographers covering the story chose to take the assignment one step further by producing a very intimate one-hour documentary titled Gloria and Me.

For two years David McIlvride and Jiri Bakala watched the woman diagnosed with ALS go from able bodied and capable of getting around on her own, to being confined in a wheelchair.

“It wasn’t easy to work on this film for the first two months,” explains co-producer Jiri Bakala. “You are working with someone who is dying and everybody knows it. There is a lot of conversation about death and dying and the illness itself, so inevitably you start to question your own mortality.”

Over time the relationship with Taylor and the two filmmakers grew, and Bakala and McIlvride were treated like family members attending holidays and events.

However for McIlvride, his connection with Gloria would become something he would hold onto forever. He submersed himself into the documentary in a way that isn’t typically undertaken by filmmakers.

“Not only is he the voice of the narration, but he appears on screen with Gloria and later when Gloria passed on,” Bakala says. “It became very much a David personal film that he needed to tell.”

The court granted Taylor an immediate exemption from the law, making her the only person in Canada who could legally seek doctor-assisted suicide; or, as Taylor preferred to describe it, "assisted dying."

Yet in the end, everyone would be shocked with Taylor’s sudden unexpected death due to a severe infection.

“We were hoping we would continue filming with Gloria for months, possibly years into the future, because she was a surviver,” recalls Bakala. “You know most people are diagnosed and pass on within a fairly short period of time. Gloria survived her own diagnoses by a long shot, but this one (the infection) just got her.”

The documentary chronicling Gloria's battle of Lou Gehrig's disease, in ‘Gloria and Me’, airs on Knowledge Network on Tuesday, April 15, at 9:00pm.

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