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Teen's death - inquest findings

The Coroner's Inquest about the death of a young Lumby man wrapped up this week in Vernon.

Bradley Michael Thomas Haslam, 18, died June 15, 2013 after getting caught in a conveyer belt at Tolko’s mill in Lavington.

Haslam had recently graduated high school and was working the graveyard cleanup shift Saturday morning when the accident occurred.

The incident happened around 1:30 a.m. on June 15. Haslam ended up caught between a conveyor belt and roller on the third chipping machine. He was eventually freed and rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

During the four-day inquest, witnesses included co-workers, paramedics, his family, an emergency room doctor, WorkSafeBC representatives and investigators.

During the inquest, some said he should have known not to be in the area. Others said the company should not have let him work alone with his lack of experience; while his family was adamant he was responsible and he would not have entered an area he was not supposed to be in.

His mother begged for better safety precautions to ensure no other teen died on the job.

Given his death was over a year ago, mill staff did note that many of the suggestions given by his co-workers regarding training and locking of the machines for safety, have since been instituted at the mill.

The purpose of the inquest was for the jury of seven to determine what could have been done and should have been done to prevent his death. With their findings they provided recommendations to all parties involved.

To WorkSafeBC

  1. To develop an education tool about the risks associated with worker fatigue
  2. To include worker fatigue as a component of CORE Audit
  3. Review and research with industry new training styles/curriculum for young/new workers
  4. That workplace inspections incorporate all shifts including day, afternoon, graveyard and weekend shifts

To BC Ambulance Service

  1. Ensure that counselling be made available in a timely fashion to ambulance attendants following calls of traumatic arrest and similar incidents

To Pat Donnelly, Plant Manager of the Lavington Division or Tolko Industries Ltd.

  1. To produce an education tool to share across all Tolko operations and industry that describes the lessons learned and details the safety standards accomplished since the death of Bradley Haslam

To BC Forest Safety Council (Manufacturing Advisory Group)

  1. That BC Forest Safety Council and the Manufacturing Advisory Group utilize Tolko Lavington's Planer Mill safety measures approach as a benchmark.


Crash victim a nurse

UPDATE 10:30 A.M. OCT 24, 2014 

Vernon RCMP have now named the woman who lost her life after an alleged drunk driver crashed into her car, early Thursday morning.

33-year-old Erin Rae Smith of Kelowna was driving her car when she was struck by a 37-year-old Vernon woman police say was drunk behind the wheel.

Smith's passenger remains in Kelowna General Hospital in stable condition.

Both victims of the crash were nurses in the Okanagan and Gayle Duteil, President of the BC Nurses’ Union shared this message. 

“Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of the victims involved in a vehicle crash in Vernon early Thursday.

We are deeply saddened that a nurse has lost her life in this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the other nurse who was seriously injured.”

The woman driving the van, pictured above, has since been released from custody while RCMP put together their case.

“She has been released while our officers continue to piece together the facts of the case for consideration of Criminal charges by Crown Counsel,” says RCMP Spokesman Gord Molendyk.

The Vernon RCMP are now asking anyone who may have witnessed this accident at 30th Ave. and 32nd St. during the early morning hours of Oct 23, to please call them at the Vernon Detachment at  250-545-7171.

A Kelowna woman is dead, another is in serious condition in hospital while a third is in custody following a two vehicle crash in Vernon early Thursday morning.

According to police, officers responded to a two vehicle collision at the intersection of 30 Avenue and 32 Street at about 1:15 a.m.

The crash involved a Chevy Uplander and small Pontiac.

RCMP at the scene say the driver of the Pontiac, a Kelowna woman in her 30s died at the scene.

A female passenger in the vehicle, also in her 30s, was originally taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital with serious internal injuries.

She has since been transported to Kelowna General.

Police say the van was reportedly travelling eastbound on 30 Avenue where it blew through a red light and struck the car on the driver's door.

The Investigating officer made a determination that the driver of the van was under the influence of liquor and started an impaired driving investigation.

The driver of the van, a 37-year-old woman from Vernon, has been held for court today to answer to charges of Impaired Driving Causing Death and Impaired Driving Causing Bodily Harm.

Send photos and video to [email protected]


Firefighter's death an accident

The death of well-loved 25-year-old volunteer firefighter, Daniel Joseph Botkin, has been ruled accidental.

Botkin died while working with the Enderby Fire Department on a fire at a log-home construction site in December, 2011. 

The fire department was called to the fire at 3:51 a.m. on Dec. 29.  When crews arrived the Deputy Fire Chief assessed the scene looking for dangers to his crew. At the time the owner's of the property informed the fire department the shipping container housed chainsaws and a pressure washer, with fuel stored in a separate fuel locker.

What they didn't know was that the shipping container also contained one-litre of methyl hydrate and whatever fuel was left in the chainsaws.

About an hour after arrival, fire crews had a good hold on the fire and by 4:50 a.m. the fire was considered contained. Firefighters, including Botkin, were asked to start mop-up.

At that time Botkin moved away from the engulfed structure and was working near the shipping container with a hose.

Minutes later at approximately 5:12 a.m., the shipping container exploded just three to five metres from where Botkin stood.

At 5:15 a.m. fellow emergency officials including paramedics rushed to the scene to find Botkin lying lifeless on the ground.

At the time of the incident a thorough investigation was completed by the BC Coroner, RCMP Major Crimes Unit, the Office of the Fire Commissioner, WorkSafeBC and the BC Safety Authority.

Foul play was ruled out.

It was determined the explosion occurred when the heat from the fire melted the chainsaw and the methyl hydrate container, allowing the contents to escape, mix and detonate.

The coroner report goes on to point out that the shipping container didn’t have large enough vents to handle the fumes from the chemical reaction, but that the container's vents were standard on that product. The small vents would have, “allowed the pressure to build to the point that it exceeded the rupture strength of the container.”

The BC Coroner released their findings and determined that Botkin was struck by a metal door in the explosion, killing him instantly. They say the explosion was so powerful the container's 113 kg doors were dislodged and propelled out with tremendous force.

The door that hit Botkin continued through the air and struck a crane parked approximately 43-metres away. The second door landed nearly 60-metres from the container.

“I find that Daniel Botkin died of multiple blunt force trauma to the head and left chest, resulting in severe brain injury and aortic laceration due to the explosion of the shipping container during the fire,” wrote Coroner Margaret Janzen in her report. “I classify this death as accidental.”

At the time of Botkin's death, the community of Enderby and Emergency personnel mourned across the country. Hundreds arrived from all over to line the streets of the small town and pay respects to their fallen firefighter


Officer on trial for fatal crash

The RCMP officer involved in a fatal crash that killed a 21-year-old woman, sits before a judge this week in Salmon Arm, facing a charge of dangerous driving.

RCMP officer, Micah Chan, was charged in 2013 after he was involved in a high-speed chase that ended in the death of a Cherryville Resident.

Courtenay Brianne Eggen died when the vehicle she was driving crashed into the back of a parked dump truck while fleeing from police.

The charges were laid nearly 6-months after the incident when the province’s Independent Investigations Office released their findings, that indicated Chan might have committed an offence.

At the time of the incident, RCMP reported that Chan had observed Eggen’s vehicle blow through a stop sign and that began the brief pursuit. RCMP claimed the chase was terminated before Eggen lost control and crashed.

Chan’s vehicle also ended up off the road, a fact not originally released by police.

At the time of the incident, witnesses told Castanet a very different story from the RCMP, a story of careless and reckless driving that endangered citizens and Eggen, a story the Crown is now trying to prove.

This week in the Salmon Arm Law Courts, Crown Counsel presents their case. So far fellow police officers, including ones involved that night, have taken the stand, as well as expert witnesses, with more expected this week.

Wednesday in court,  a forensic video analyst with the IIO spent hours going over mere minutes of video to determine what order the cars were moving in, which direction, which cars were civilian and which weren’t and how fast the vehicles were going.

Eggen’s parents sat stoically in the back of the Salmon Arm courtroom, as they endured the same few minutes of video over and over and over again, as lawyers debated over types of cars and time points. The video showed their daughter’s car’s abrupt stop, the crash into the dump truck that killed her.  

Chan’s defense lawyer Neville McDougall told Castanet Wednesday afternoon that Chan’s career is very important to him and that he is very upset about what happened. He says he does not want to lose sight of the fact Eggen died, but does not believe it was dangerous driving on Chan’s part.

Chan remains on duty but McDougall notes a conviction could severely affect his position with the RCMP.

The trial is scheduled to continue Thursday and into next week.

Citizens patrol Halloween

The new citizens on patrol unit in Lumby will get its start as the eyes and ears for RCMP on Halloween night. 

The City of Vernon's Safe Communities Unit, the Village of Lumby and the Lumby RCMP Detachment are pleased to announce the first official duties of the new Lumby Citizens Patrol.

The community-based volunteer group has helped to minimize crime occurring throughout the North Okanagan for over 20 years. COP volunteers observe, record and report suspicious activities to police officers.

"The Village of Lumby has found that having committed residents as “eyes and ears” for the RCMP can only add to the sense of safety," said crime prevention coordinator Regan Borisenko.

The new group is three members who have passed RCMP enhanced security clearance and received 12 hours of classroom training. 

"In addition, they are mentored by experienced Citizens on Patrol volunteers for their first six patrol shifts. In this case these shifts will happen in Vernon," Borisenko said in an email. 

Vernon’s COP program is currently seeking volunteers.

A training session will be held in Vernon in late November and Lumby can add new volunteers to that group.

For more information on volunteering or to learn more about the Community Policing program, please contact Regan Borisenko, Crime Prevention Coordinator, at [email protected] or Rachael Zubick, Community Policing Office Coordinator, at [email protected]

Ghostly tour returns to Vernon

The Ghost Tours of Vernon are back for only three evenings this Halloween season.

Catch host/storyteller/paranormal scholar, Gabriel David Sumegi Newman, on Oct 27, 28 and 29 at 7 p.m. if you want your season’s fill of local ghost stories and macabre historical oddities.

“The rustle of leaves, the dark shadows, and the smell of fall makes the Halloween tours especially enjoyable,” says Newman, who has been conducting this storytelling walking tour for the past ten years.

Tours leave at 7 p.m. from the steps of the Vernon Museum.

It is an outdoor walking tour and runs rain or shine or snow so dress appropriately. Ticket price is $10 for those over the age of 12 and $5 for those 12 and under (cash only).

No reservations are necessary unless you want to book a private tour for 20 or more.

Suspicious fires start again

Fire Investigators and RCMP are dealing with two new suspicious fire, in less than a week, in Vernon.

Last Thursday Oct 16, just before 10 p.m., crews were called to a three-storey building under construction in the 2700 block of 41st Avenue.

The building was still in the framing stage of construction.

“Our crews got to it early, thankfully, so the damage was contained,” says Deputy Fire Chief Lawrie Skolrood.

A man and woman were found there at the time of the fire. Molendyk says they are part of the investigation and it is not yet known why they were in the building prior to the fire.

“We are speaking with them and we are following up on this,” says Molendyk.

Then, last night (Monday) around 9:30 p.m., a recycling dumpster was set on fire at the Interior Freight and Bottle Depot on 24th Avenue.

“The dumpster was fully-involved when they arrived,” explains Skolrood. “They extinguished it and from all accounts it is obviously a suspicious fire.”

The RCMP are involved in both investigations. At this point they are not tying either fire to the string of suspicious fires that plagued the region this summer.

“Our crews are working with the fire department and following up but it really hard to say [whether they are connected], we are still in the early stages of these investigations,” adds Molendyk.  

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