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Sexual assault trial begins

The crime allegedly occurred more than 11 years ago, but the pain is still fresh for a victim who took the stand in Kelowna, Tuesday.

The 21-year-old woman, who cannot be named, is one of three alleged victims in the attacks on underage girls.

The man on trial, a 54-year-old, is accused of the sexual assault and interference of the three, in three different incidents in West Kelowna during the past 13 years.

The accused has been charged with six counts, two for each victim, including three counts of sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference with a person under 16 and one count of sexual interference with a person under 14.

The man was supposed be on trial this week for all six counts, but, at the request of defence counsel, the case has been broken into three separate trials.

The first takes place this week in Kelowna Supreme Court, involving an incident from the early 2000s, when the alleged victim was nine years old.

The now 21-year-old woman took the stand as the first Crown witness. She identified the accused as the man who allegedly assaulted her and immediately broke down in tears when Crown asked her to explain what happened.

The woman remembered a happy day in the summer. She was out swimming with friends and had returned home when she sat on the couch to dry off. She wore a wet bathing suit and was wrapped in a white towel.

She said the accused joined her on the couch and put his arm around her.

“I felt his arm go down the right side of my body and his hand reached under my towel and then I felt his hand go under my bathing suit, and I felt his fingers start rubbing my vagina, a couple times for a couple of minutes,” said the woman. “I felt scared and I started to feel numb, like I didn’t have any feeling at all.”

She testified she asked him to stop, and he looked at her with a smirk.

“He had a sick smile like he was allowed to do it and it was OK for him to do it,” said the woman. 

The woman said he stopped when she left the room.

The woman did not come forward with the information until a family member told her about another incident involving a different girl and she felt safe to come forward with her own story.

The alleged incident is the first of three between 2002 and 2012 the accused is on trial for.

The first trial is expected to wrap up this week; the following two trial dates still need to be set.

The accused is currently not in custody.


Plow ends up in ditch

Both a logging truck and a snow plow ended up in a ditch Tuesday afternoon, losing control on the icy roads. 

The picture above, snapped about 12 p.m., shows both the loaded logging truck and the snow plow down in the ditch in the median in the centre of Highway 97C near Sunset Main Road.

Blowing snow reportedly caused the treacherous conditions on the highway, resulting in the accidents.

The condition of the drivers are currently unknown.

DriveBC reports compact snow with slushy and slippery sections for the entire Okanagan Connector between Merritt and West Kelowna and the Coquihalla Highway 5 from Kamloops to Hope.

Drivers are urged to take caution and ensure their vehicle is equipped with proper tires for the conditions and check DriveBC for current road conditions.

Here in the Okanagan Valley bottom, residents are being warned to get ready for a cold winter snap.

Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist says overnight temperatures dipping down to -10 C or colder are expected to hit the Okanagan overnight Wednesday.

Lundquist says the high temperatures will remain below zero into the weekend.

Your say on new skate park

The City of West Kelowna wants your opinion on two design options for a new skate park in the community.

Construction of the new skate park for West Kelowna is on track to begin in the spring of next year.

The options were created using feedback from the first community survey, which was completed in September.

Everyone is welcome to look over the concepts and let the City of West Kelowna know which one you like best.

Click here to view the options and take the survey.

Your feedback is needed by Dec. 3.

Designers will spend the winter completing the blueprints for the skate park so that the City of West Kelowna can break ground in early to mid-spring.

Construction of the skate park was made possible with a grant from the federal government’s Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program.

Construction will cost about $430,000. The Canada 150 grant will cover just under half the cost of the park with remaining funds coming from the City of West Kelowna, community donations and fees charged on new developments that are set aside to help buy or build parks.

Live ammo bonfire surprise

A concerned Peachland family is coming forward after their weekend snowmobile trip unearthed a dangerous find.

On Saturday afternoon, the family headed up a dead-end road just outside the Brenda Mine gates – a popular destination for snowmobilers.

“We lit our fire, as usual on the side of the road, on top of about 18 inches of snow,” said the tipster. “After approximately 30 minutes, the fire had melted down to the ground and we were toasty warm.”

The group of five, including a 13-year-old, was enjoying the moment when “all of the sudden, we heard a gunshot."

"After about 10 seconds of panic, we realized there was live ammunition under the snow, right under our fire.”

The family quickly put the fire out and did some digging, discovering two more live bullets.

“I'm not sure who the idiot is who would leave live ammo on the ground at a popular fire site, but ... it could have killed somebody. It is completely irresponsible, and the person who did this should not be allowed to possess a firearm.”

RCMP Cpl. Joe Duncan says firearms users are required to pick up and properly dispose of or store all ammunition. He says this move was clearly dangerous.

“It is very odd, and it is dangerous,” said Duncan. “They should be taking care of their ammo under the regulations.”

Anyone who finds ammunition is urged to contact the RCMP.

“If they can mark the area and give us a call, then we go up there and get it and make sure it is destroyed,” said Duncan. “If you find ammo in the snow, or ammo dumped somewhere, or even old ammo in the garage, by all means give us a call and we will go up there and we will make sure it is destroyed.”

Crash closes couplet

A two-car collision at Dobbin and Hebert roads closed down Highway 97 at the northbound couplet in West Kelowna for more than an hour overnight.

The crash, between two compact cars, happened near the Shell station and Dairy Queen about 11:35 p.m.

One driver was treated in the car and stabilized for about 45 minutes. Fire, ambulance and RCMP responders attended the scene.

Traffic was detoured through the Shell station and around the crash.

Councillor in conflict?

A West Kelowna councillor has found himself in a possible conflict of interest.

First-term councillor Rusty Ensign allegedly voted on a development project while having a contractual relationship, said Mayor Doug Findlater.

Because of that relationship with developers, council is being asked to rescind second and third readings of OCP and zoning amendments for a low-density, multiple-residential development and tourist
accommodation on West Bay Road.

Council gave second reading to the amendments in early September and, following a public hearing Sept. 29, gave it third reading.

"This recommendation (to rescind) is made to ensure the process for adoption of the bylaws, if council
proceeds to do so, is transparent and fair, and ultimately to protect the integrity of the process," stated a report council will review Tuesday.

"We are correcting the process," said Findlater.

The mayor said people sitting through a public hearing must know those hearing the information do not have a conflict.

The report before council further stated,

"On Oct. 27, 2015 the city received an action plan from West Bay Beach Resort which states Ensign has a demolition contract with West Bay Beach Resort.

"The city sought legal advice regarding a potential conflict of interest for Coun. Ensign, in regards to
bylaw No. 0100.04 and bylaw No. 154.26, and council directed that, to ensure their validity, the bylaws be brought back to first reading and for.consideration of.second reading."

Ensign owns a company which, among other services, provides demolition work.

This means a public hearing will also have to be scheduled again.

Findlater said council would decide at a later date whether it would entertain discussion of possible sanctions against Ensign.

This is the second time in recent weeks a Central Okanagan elected official has found themselves at odds with those around the table.

Central Okanagan East Director Patty Hanson has been accused of relaying information from a confidential meeting of the regional board.

A hearing on possible censure or sanctions was postponed indefinitely last week to allow Hanson to have her attorney present at the proceedings.

Attic fire quickly doused

A fire in the attic of a home was quickly doused thanks to the efforts of the West Kelowna firefighters.

Upon arrival crews found heavy smoke coming from a house on Butt road, but were able to extinguish the blaze with the assistance from the Lakeview Heights station.

The residents of the home were able to escape the fire after smelling smoke and evacuating. They will be put into the care of Emergency Social Services overnight.

The cause of the fire has been deemed accidental, due to electrical sources in the attic, according to fire chief Jason Brolund.

Ring those bells

The Salvation Army’s Kettle Campaign kicked off Thursday in West Kelowna.

The campaign is the main fundraiser for the Salvation Army for the entire year, and helps to support initiatives through the holiday season as well as the months following.

Pastor Darryl Burry says this year the goal is to raise $700,000 in the Central Okanagan over the next five weeks.

“We set the same target last year, which was $700,000, and we were able to well exceed that target by raising $755,000 because of the generosity of this community.”

The money from the Kettle Campaign will go directly to helping those in need. Burry says in addition to the Christmas food and toy, the money will also help the emergency food bank that is available year round.

"We help supply vouchers for household and clothing items, there are lots of programs we are running in the programs currently.”

For those who may need a little extra help this holiday season, the Salvation Army is holding registration for their food and toy programs until Dec. 4.

Pam Grimm with the Salvation Army says, a lot of times people don’t realize they are going to run short, or are victims of circumstances such as a job loss or something has happened in the family.

“We come along side them and provide food and toys for their Christmas celebration so nobody has to go without.”

However, Grimm adds to be a part of the program, people have to sign up and go through an application process. To make an appointment call 250-765-3450.

“We really like to do this with dignity around it, so it is not so much a hand-out but a hand-up,” says Grimm.

This year, the Salvation Army is trying something new with the food program, instead of handing out hampers filled with goods they will be giving out gift cards.

“What we have been discovering is people have food issues, allergies, kids have different needs and so we have changed it to gift cards, so they can go shopping for their food,” Grimm explains.

For more information, click here.

Threat at Mount Boucherie

A student threatened to bring a gun to Mount Boucherie Secondary School Wednesday night, prompting an RCMP investigation.

“A youth in the community sent a message via text and perhaps Instagram yesterday evening that was received by at least two students at Mount Boucherie that did contain a potential threat to students at that school,” said Hugh Gloster, superintendent of School District 23.

Gloster said RCMP were made aware of the situation Wednesday night, and have since determined there was no real threat to students.

“It was determined largely to be a hoax,” Gloster said.

Tracy, a mother of a student at the school, said five police cars and a helicopter were at the school Wednesday.

“A student threatened to bring in a gun,” Tracy said.

Cpl. Joe Duncan of the Kelowna RCMP said a threat was made last night, but there is currently “no danger to the public or to the school.”

“It was meant to be a joke, but of course when you say something like that no one ever takes it as a joke,” Duncan said.

Gloster said the RCMP has met with the youth involved in the threat and are following up on the incident.

The school was not evacuated Thursday morning and was not under lockdown. 

Storm hits yacht club hard

The West Kelowna Yacht Club took a beating during Tuesday's windstorm.

Gusts reaching 90 km/h hammered the marina, causing extensive damage to boats and infrastructure, according to rear commodore Pat Pope.

Only a few of the 30 boats moored at the club over the winter survived unscathed.

"Two boats are written off, for sure," said Pope.

"Probably half a dozen others have suffered various amounts of damage. Anything from minor scuffs, to two boats that got ripped out of their moorings and drifted out in the lake."

One of those vessels, an old tugboat now used as a fishing boat, went aground on some rocks in Gellatly Bay.

The storm also took a toll on the club's docks. Most, said Pope, suffered damage.

"Some got ripped out. Some are broken apart. The damage was quite extensive to the whole marina basin.

"I was just meeting with the insurance guys. Until we have someone come and take a look at it, we have no idea on a dollar value."

Pope admitted replacement costs will be high.

Tuesday's storm was one of the worst to hit the yacht club since the massive storm of 1997.

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