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Parents don't blame Mountie

Two Cherryville parents continue to grieve the loss of their daughter, but are relieved they no longer have to deal with a dangerous driving trial for an RCMP officer.

Salmon Arm Cst. Micah Chan was acquitted on Thursday, and found not guilty on a single charge of dangerous driving.

Chan was charged after a high-speed pursuit in 2011 ended in the death of a young woman, 21-year-old Courtenay Brianne Eggen.

Eggen allegedly took off from Cst. Chan when he tried to pull her over after she went through a stop sign. The short two-minute pursuit ended when Eggen drove her vehicle at a high rate of speed into the back of a dump truck, losing her life.

Around the same time, Chan lost control of his police vehicle which ended up sliding down a small embankment on the opposite side of the road.

At the time of the incident, the police watchdog unit (Independent Investigations Office) was involved and the crown recommended charges against Chan based on their investigation.

Thursday, in a Salmon Arm courtroom, Judge Anne Wallace ruled that there was not sufficient evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Chan drove dangerously endangering the public.

Courtenay Eggen’s parents, Ian and Helen Eggen, attended every day of the trial and took time to speak with media after the verdict was read, saying they respect the judgment and do not hold Cst. Chan accountable for their daughter’s death.

“The loss of (a) child is difficult to take and I am sure (Chan) is very sorry for the fact it happened, but we don’t hold him to blame for it,” said an emotional Ian Eggen, as teared flowed down his face.

Just before that comment was made, Wallace read her verdict as officers in attendance congratulated Chan with pats on the back.

He then immediately went to the Eggens outside the courtroom to offer his condolences. They said he was told not to speak with them before the verdict was read, and were happy to share a moment with him.

“He obviously had a lot of police support here, which I think is a good testimony to his character,” added Mr. Eggen.

He says they look forward to sitting down with the ‘young officer’ in the future when emotions are not as high.

For them, the trial was an overwhelming experience, as much of the information and evidence provided was new to them.

They had remained removed from the process and along with the judge, learnt the circumstances surrounding their daughter’s death.

The couple say they never wanted an officer to be blamed, but instead wanted the process to be evaluated.

“We weren’t here looking for vengeance or anything like that. We wanted information on what happened,” says Mr. Eggen. “He seems like he is a fine young officer, but this had to be in the public eye to ensure the information was out there.”

“We didn’t want anybody to lose his or her job over this,” adds Mrs. Eggen. “We would like to see that maybe there will be some changes in decision making, surrounding when you are going to engage in a high speed pursuit, lets have a second thought.”

They believe items like dash-cams on all police vehicles and time-stamps on radio transmissions would help paint a clearer picture and protect the public and the officer from any discrepancies in evidence.

The Eggens say both the IIO office and the Crown Counsel did an admirable job of putting the evidence forward and feel Judge Wallace took the verdict seriously and was very in-depth in her rationale.

“I don’t believe there were any visible steps overlooked in this process and I think we can take confidence that the police are being held accountable, because they are a very tight nit group,” noted Mr. Eggen.

They say the loss of their daughter has had a profound impact on their lives, but this trial was not about laying blame, as they hold their daughter accountable for her actions, it was about producing change for the future.

“No matter what we do, nothing will bring her back,” says an emotional Mrs. Eggen. “We will never know, we will never know the whole story and that is the unfortunate part.”

Her mom says Courtenay was born and raised in Cherryville with her big brother, and was living in Salmon Arm going to trades school to be an electrician.

“I want everyone to know that Courtenay was a good girl,” says Mrs. Eggen through tears. “It was just unfortunate.”

“In her life things were going really good and she wouldn’t have done anything to jeopardize that. She was doing really well,” adds Mrs. Eggen. “She loved animals, she helped everybody where she could, she was full of life.”



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RCMP education on the water

North Okanagan RCMP were out on the water this summer, with the goal to educate and ensure boaters safety. 

RCMP spokesman Gord Molendyk notes that over 1,000 vessels were checked by the North Okanagan RCMP Marine Patrol on both the North Okanagan and Shuswap Lakes last summer.

According to the two officers in charge of these patrols, compliance of the safety regulations has been improving.

And because of that, they are able to spend more time educating rather than enforcing, and are happy with what they are seeing.

“Their goal out there is to educate the public. You may have an old lifejacket on board, but it is way outdated. You know, the type you used to tie over your head. So the officers may say yes, ok, you have a lifejacket but it really doesn’t offer the safety you should have. So instead of issuing a fine they would rather boaters spend the money on new, safer lifejackets,” explains Molendyk.

He warns though that charges and tickets were, and will be, issued for glaring safety violations such as not enough lifejackets, no spotter while towing a skier, no license for the boat operator or an underage operator on a personal water craft.

If caught, those fines can range between $200 and $300.

One common mistake RCMP are still witnessing relate to paddle-boarders without lifejackets. He says often RCMP find them in the middle of the lake without any form of lifejacket and are in disbelief. Molendyk mentioned a shocking find from a past summer of a woman who risked the life of her child while paddle-boarding across a large lake with no lifejacket for either her or her child on the board.

Molendyk says boat operators are also being reminded that anyone operating a boat with an engine in excess of 10 horsepower must have an operators license through Transport Canada, and need to display their number on both sides of the bow of the vessel in contrasting colours.



Afternoon crash in Vernon

A two-vehicle crash is believed to have sent at least one person to hospital in Vernon yesterday.

It occurred Wednesday afternoon, around 5:30 p.m. at the corner of Highway 6 and Middleton Way.

According to witnesses on the scene, the driver of the blue minivan was taken to hospital, but the other driver was treated at the scene.

We’ll have more information as it becomes available.



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Halloween in Greater Vernon

The Greater Vernon area is gearing up for Halloween Friday night and making sure residents have all the info they need for a safe and fun Halloween.

First, on the fun side of things, residents are all invited to the Halloween Treat Trail Friday afternoon.

Over 80 businesses in the downtown area will be handing out candy and treats to kids trick-or-treating under 12 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Interested families can download a list of participants here, along with a printable Treat Trail map. 

The Community Policing Office is one of those who will open for trick-or-treaters as part of the DVA’s Trick-or-Treat Trail.

The City of Vernon Safe Communities Unit also has a list of tips they hope trick-or-treaters and motorists will utilize to keep everyone safe this Halloween.

  • Always trick-or-treat with a friend. Younger children should be with an adult.
  • Always have a flashlight if you are going to be out after dark.
  • Make sure cars can see you by wearing light-coloured, non-flammable fabric. Glow sticks and reflective tape help people in vehicles see trick-or-treaters in the dark.
  • Choose make-up instead of mask so that you can see. If you must wear a mask, make the eyeholes larger so you can see. Push the mask up on your head when you are walking.
  • Only go to well-lit homes and only accept treats at the door. Never go inside.
  • Remember to always STOP, LOOK and LISTEN before crossing the road. Make sure that you make eye contact with the drivers so that you know they have seen you before you cross the street.
  • Plan a trick-or-treat route and a curfew time for older trick-or-treaters.
  • Always have a parent check over candy before eating the treats.

With all those tips in mind the North Okanagan RCMP are also urging residents to stay safe this Halloween.

“We want everyone to have a safe Halloween, so think safety both when you are driving and walking out there,” urges RCMP spokesman Gord Molendyk.

He says with Halloween on a Friday this year they are anticipating it will be busier than normal with more trick-or-treaters and partiers out and about.

“We want to remind parents to take time to talk to your children that are out by themselves to be careful,” says Molendyk. “Do not run back and forth across the streets, have something reflective on so you can be seen, carry a flash light and wear a costume that allows you to move easily.”

The RCMP are also reminding residents to ensure their pets are secured for their own safety.

As well residents should make sure their driveways and sidewalks are clear of obstructions for the safety of all trick-or-treaters.

A friendly reminder is also coming from the RCMP that fire crackers and fireworks are not permitted to be set off anywhere within the City of Vernon.

If found in violation you can be fined. 

With that in mind, several Greater Vernon area fire departments are putting on a free show for those who would still like to enjoy some permitted fireworks Halloween night. 

If you want to check out the fireworks in Coldstream, head down Kal Beach for the 8 p.m. show and enjoy the bonfire and hot chocolate while you watch.

Those on the north end of Vernon can also check out the fireworks put on by the BX-Swan Lake Fire department. Their fireworks take off at 8 p.m. but residents are invited to the bonfire and concession before hand starting at 6 p.m.

Several other fire departments are also treating residents to a show including Armstrong, Lumby, Lavington and Falkland. 



Water rates over par

Vernon’s golf courses are calling 'fore' over water rates they say are way out of bounds and critically hurting their businesses.

A delegation from Predator Ridge, The Rise, Vernon Golf & Country Club and Hillview Golf spoke to City Council this week, pleading their case of lost revenue, low profits and a dismal looking future.

“If we were extremely profitable I don’t think we would be in front of you,” says Terry Yacyshen, general manager at the Rise. “We are being faced with escalating costs and these costs are out of control.”

The courses shared a presentation to council that claimed their courses are paying two to 10 times more for water than comparable courses in the Central Okanagan.

They say these costs are going to inevitably force course closures, layoffs and the decline of the industry. A decline they are already witnessing in the United States where they say for every new course that opens, 800 are closing. 

“These punishing increases could not come at a more difficult time for the industry,” says Wesbild Holdings Ltd. vice president Brad Pelletier, who represents Predator Ridge.

He says Predator pays 10 times the amount other users pay and had they known, the course would not exist.

“If we knew these rates would come up to this level we never would have built the award-winning Ridge Golf Course at Predator Ridge, there is no question, and I think that is quite a statement in terms of how these rates act as a deterrent to future investment in the area.”

According to the delegation, their rate for reclaimed water has risen from $224/hectare in 2005 to $3,199/hectare in 2015, working out to a 1,328 per cent increase.

For example; Predator Ridge paid $2,906 in 2005 versus an expected $234,587 in 2015. That's compared to The Harvest Golf Club and the Okanagan Club in Kelowna who pay $17,500 and $3,000 a year respectively. 

In closing the representatives asked council to reconsider the water rate and work with the courses to develop a fee that is economically sound for all involved.

“We are a major economic contributor to our region via tourism, employment, development and taxation. We contribute significant revenues to the local economy and our primary goal today is to ensure we are economically viable so we can continue to contribute to our municipality and these causes,” pleaded Yacyshen.

After their delegation Councillor Brian Quiring noted shock in the rates and agreed the courses need some help.

“I actually had no idea and I can absolutely see that is not sustainable, not at all,” says Quiring.

Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky said it was an issue that would garner a lot of support from council and felt that their next council meeting would be primarily focused around the topic.

The situation is a complex one though as the city’s water rates are tied with Greater Vernon’s potable water rates and the city would have to work with the organization to find a solution for the golf courses. 



Employees take down suspect

Two employees saved their company property and took care of business, conducting a citizen’s arrest Wednesday morning.

According to North Okanagan RCMP, just before 8:00 a.m. officers were called to a report that two employees had caught a man in a staff vehicle in the 900 block of Waddington Drive.

“Our officers responded to that location, and spoke to a witness that stated he saw a man in the vehicle rummaging through papers and personal contents of the vehicle,” explains spokesman Gord Molendyk. “The employees brought the male out of the vehicle and escorted him inside the office to wait for police.”

When police arrived on the scene they took the 30-year-old man into custody and returned to the detachment.

The suspect was found to be in possession of several pairs of sunglasses, an iPod, other assorted items and a flashlight.

Shortly after escorting him to cells pending an investigation, RCMP received another report of theft from a vehicle just a block away from where he was arrested, in the 1800 block of Kosmina Drive.

“Our officers feel this suspect may have rummaged through more vehicles in this area between midnight and 7:00 a.m. and owners may not have reported the thefts yet,” says Molendyk.

They are asking anyone who may have lost items like the ones listed to contact Cst. MacQueen at the Vernon Detachment at 250-545-7171



NDP slams MP's comments

The NDP candidate in the federal riding of North Okanagan-Shuswap has taken exception to MP Colin Mayes' comments about homelessness, calling them disrespectful.

Jacqui Gingras made the comment after remarks made by the Conservative MP during the unveiling of a homeless memorial in Polson Park in Vernon were made public.

"These comments are disappointing, but sadly not surprising given the Conservatives' record," says Gingras.

"The Conservatives have continued the cuts to social programs that were started by the Liberal government before them. They have done little to help the Canadians struggling to get out of poverty."

This past Monday, Vernon Mayor, Rob Sawatsky took the unusual step of blasting the MP in open council.

According to Sawatzky, Mayes said at the memorial dedication that homelessness was/is not a government issue.

“For Mr. Mayes to state that this was not a government issue is, at best, disturbing. It is clearly a government issue,” stated Sawatzky to council.

In an email sent to Castanet, Mayes says his comments at the event are being misconstrued and that he did not imply homelessness was not a government issue.

“In that context, I referred to the fact that the people that are homeless are not homeless because of government, it is due to addictions (drug and alcohol) and mental illness for the most part,” explains Mayes who says the federal government has invested in programs that assist the homeless.

“This was an event to remember those that had succumbed to their illness, not a time to criticize government for not giving enough money to fix the problem.”

Gingras says she and the NDP are committed to compassion.

"I believe in doing unto others as I would have them do unto me," says Gingras.

"That includes protecting the vulnerable and ensuring everyone has access to high quality social programs."



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