Bear swipes hikers

A Squamish park and multiple trails are closed after a bear attacked two hikers on Sunday.

Buzz Henczel was walking a trail on Merrill Park at Garibaldi Highlands when a mother bear ran out of the bushes and swiped at the man's right calf.

“A man receiving scratches from a sow, protecting her cub,” said conservation officers. “The man and a woman were walking in the trails and the sow charged the couple as soon as she saw them.”

The man said the beautiful cinnamon momma bear ran out of the bushes no bluffing, no sound and just straight charged 10 feet.

Thankfully the two hikers had worked as wilderness guides and knew how to respond to their bear by outstretched their arms in the air to make themselves look large.

“The man's injuries are fortunately not serious,” said conservation officers.

Conservation officers said that bears are active in the community and ask anyone to let them know of bear sightings so they can track the bears’ whereabouts.


Absentee ballot trickle in

Counting is underway for thousands of absentee ballots that could determine the results of British Columbia's tight election.

Elections BC says the final count is complete in 16 ridings, with the Liberals securing 11 seats and the New Democrats five.

Results from the vote on May 9 show the Liberals with 43 seats, the NDP with 41 and Green party with three.

Elections BC says recounts have also finished for two ridings, including Comox-Courtenay, which the NDP won by nine ballots following the preliminary vote.

The recount has New Democratic candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard up by 13, though absentee ballots for the riding have yet to be counted.

A recount in Vancouver-False Creek has Liberal Sam Sullivan up by 569 votes.

Final vote counts for 71 ridings across the province are expected to be complete by Wednesday.

Bear attacks hiker

Trails were closed in a mountain community north of Vancouver after a bear attacked a hiker.

The District of Squamish says in a Facebook post that a man and a woman were hiking in the Merrill Park area on Sunday afternoon when a female bear spotted them and charged.

The post says the bear was protecting her cub but the attack was unprovoked.

It also says the man received scratches, though his injuries are not serious.

The district says traps have been set up in the area.

The park and surrounding trails have been closed until further notice.

Fire causes air advisory

Interior Health has issued an air quality advisory for the area in and around Kingsvale, about 25 km south of Merritt, due to a tractor trailer fire on the Coquihalla Highway.

The truck, carrying “potentially hazardous chemicals” caught fire around 4 a.m. near the Coldwater Road exchange, forcing the closure of the highway in both directions.

People in the area who smell or taste anything unusual in the air are asked to seek shelter indoors and close windows and doors.  If you continue to smell anything unusual indoors, you are advised to leave the immediate area and seek cleaner air.

Interior Health says the most likely symptoms would be mild to moderate irritation of the nose, throat, respiratory tract or eyes. At this time, it does not appear local water has been impacted by the fire.

Authorities have not divulged what exactly the truck was carrying, but a haz-mat team is on scene.

The highway remains closed, with the next update expected at 3 p.m.

Coq to stay closed all day

UPDATE 1:15 p.m.

It is expected the Coquihalla Highway will remain closed in both directions until midnight. 

In a tweet, VSA Highway Maintenance wrote that a haz-mat assessment has been completed, and cleanup is now underway. Interior Health has issued an air quality advisory for the surrounding area.

Alternate routes to and from the Lower Mainland are available via the Fraser Canyon or Hope to Princeton Highway.

UPDATE 10:35 a.m.

VSA Highway Maintenance has provided a brief update, stating that a haz-mat team is now on site.

There is still no estimated time of reopening. The next update is expected at 3 p.m.

ORIGINAL 7:15 a.m.

The Coquihalla Highway is closed 25 km south of Merritt due to a transport truck fire.

In a tweet, VSA Highway Maintenance stated the burning truck was carrying dangerous goods.

The highway has been closed since at least 4 a.m., and there is no word yet on when the road will reopen.

DriveBC is recommending motorists take the Fraser Canyon or Hope to Princeton Highway in the interim.

Castanet will update with more information as it becomes available.


3 hurt in May long crashes

Crashes in the Vancouver left three people injured over the long weekend, including one 50-year-old pedestrian who was seriously injured after being struck by a car.

The Victoria Day long weekend is considered among the most dangerous weekend of driving in B.C., as warm weather brings out a need for speed among drivers.

Police are reportedly still investigating an incident in which a 50-year-old man was hit in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside Saturday night, at around 8 p.m.

Another crash downtown left two with minor injuries at the intersection of Howe Street and Davie Street Sunday morning.

Both of those people went to hospital after the crash, which happened at around 6:30 a.m. Sunday when a Range Rover flipped onto its roof.

The driver of that vehicle was not injured, but police say alcohol may have been a factor.

A Coquitlam house, too, was among the casualties, after a vehicle drove into it earlier on Sunday.

Crashes in Metro Vancouver tend to go up on the May long weekend, according to ICBC, which cites speed as a factor. Last year's May long saw 500 injuries and 1,900 crashes in B.C.

“We’re going to have more people on the road, not just drivers in vehicles, (but) more commercial traffic, more motorcycles,” said Sam Corea with ICBC. “People are rushing to get their destination or get back home."

An average of two people die in car crashes per year during the May long weekend.

–with files from CTV Vancouver

High stream flows expected

As the snowpack begins to melt in earnest, the River Forecast Centre has issued a number of new high streamflow advisories for regions of the Southern Interior.

They include:

  • Okanagan Valley including Mission Creek
  • Shuswap region including the Shuswap River, Eagle River and surrounding tributaries
  • Boundary region including the Kettle River
  • Similkameen River including tributaries
  • West Kootenay including Slocan River, Salmo River, and surrounding areas
  • East Kootenay

High streamflow advisories continue for:

  • Nicola River downstream of Merritt 
  • Salmon River 

A high streamflow advisory means that river levels are rising or expected to rise rapidly, but that no major flooding is expected.  Minor flooding in low-lying areas is possible.

A flood watch remains in effect for:

  • Nicola River at Merritt and upstream, including Nicola Lake and tributaries

A flood watch means that river levels are rising and will approach or may exceed their banks.  Flooding of areas adjacent to affected rivers may occur.

The River Forecast Centre will continue to monitor conditions and will update the advisory as needed.

High stakes in final count

British Columbia's final ballot count starts Monday to determine which party forms the province's next government almost two weeks after election day, barring judicial recounts.

Christy Clark's Liberals held a slight lead heading into the final count, needing only one riding to change in their favour for the slimmest of majority governments in the province's 87-seat legislature. But the prospect of a minority government also looms large.

After the May 9 vote, the Liberals had 43 seats, New Democrats 41 and the Greens three.

All eyes over the next few days will be on the Courtenay-Comox riding on Vancouver Island where the NDP won by nine votes. The riding is the focus of an official recount, as is Vancouver-False Creek, won by incumbent Liberal Sam Sullivan by more than 400 votes.

Once the results are known, political horse trading between the Liberals, NDP and Greens is expected to intensify as the parties manoeuvre towards co-operation agreements in what could be a minority government or a bare majority.

Clark and NDP Leader John Horgan have reached out to the Greens since the election. Green Leader Andrew Weaver has appointed a negotiating team and articulated three major demands: official party status along with electoral and campaign finance reforms.

Glen Sanford, the NDP's deputy director, said 60 per cent of B.C. voters rejected Clark's Liberals and people want change.

Elections BC, the government agency that administers provincial elections, said almost 180,000 absentee ballots must be counted.

The final count will take place from Monday to Wednesday. Elections BC said the results will be posted and refreshed on the agency's website starting on Monday.

Sea Lion grabs child

A heart-stopping video of a sea lion pulling a young girl into the water at a Vancouver-area wharf is a good reminder of why people should never feed wild animals, experts say.

Michael Fujiwara was having coffee at Steveston Wharf in Richmond, on Saturday evening when a sea lion popped out from the water and he took out his phone to record.

The 23-year-old said there were about a dozen people on the dock at the time, including a family that was feeding the animal bread crumbs.

A video Fujiwara posted online Saturday shows the sea lion suddenly lunge up, grab a little girl's dress and pull her into the water.

"Everyone just thought it was super friendly and all, but seconds later the girl decided to sit on the side of the dock and that's when the sea lion decided to jump out and drag her into the water," Fujiwara said.

On the video, screams erupt from the crowd as the animal grabs the girl. A man immediately leaps in, scoops the child up and hauls her to safety.

Fujiwara said he grabbed the hands of both the girl and the man and helped pull them back up to the dock.

"I was just in shock. I didn't know what to do at first," he said. "I've never seen anything like this before."

The family was visibly shaken by the incident, he added, and immediately left the area.

Bob Baziuk, general manager of the Steveston Harbour Authority, said watching the video made his stomach turn.

"It's an unfortunate incident, first and foremost. I hope the little girl's okay," he said. "But we've been trying to get that message out for years and years — don't feed the animals. You're just asking for trouble when you do that."

California sea lions often visit the area on their migratory cycle, hoping for handouts from fisherman, but signs are posted warning people not to feed any of the animals, Baziuk said.

"It's kind of staggering and it's a really unfortunate incident. But it happened and now that video is the poster child for why you don't (feed the sea lions)," he said.

Danielle Hyson, a senior marine mammal trainer at the Vancouver Aquarium, said there has been an uptick in people feeding wildlife around the Vancouver area, from bears to birds. That behaviour leads to an increased number of dangerous close encounters.

"The more and more we feed wild animals, the more and more we're putting our selves at risk for those situations," she said.

Hyson said Fujiwara's video appears to show the sea lion getting increasingly frustrated as the feeding stops.

"You saw him kind of initially lunge out of the water and give a little huff. That's what we would call an aggressive precursor," she explained. "So he's letting the people know that he's starting to get frustrated. And in that situation, the people should have backed off right away."

Frustration can lead to aggression, Hyson added, noting that male California sea lions are powerful animals that can weigh more than 200 kilograms.

Despite their power, the marine mammals have big eyes and whiskers that can tug on human heart strings.

"They look cute and I know people have a natural fascination with them. They look like they're water dogs but they absolutely are not," Hyson said.

The trainer said she's also concerned about the little girl's health after watching the video. If the child suffered any sort of puncture or broken skin, she could be at risk of an infection that doctors could find difficult to treat.

"Seals and sea lions can carry some pretty nasty bacteria in their mouth," Hyson said.

The Vancouver Aquarium is encouraging the family to get in touch for more information on how to handle a possible infection.

Cancer breakthrough in BC

BC Cancer Agency scientists have uncovered seven new subtypes of ovarian cancer.

Their work could result in new treatment strategies for patients who don't respond well to chemotherapy. 

The discovery, published in Nature Genetics, analyzed the genetic information of more than 100 patients to identify abnormalities in the DNA of ovarian cancer cells. 

Two of the new genetic subtypes belong to a common and deadly form of ovarian cancer called high grade serous carcinoma.

“This study demonstrates that patterns of changes across the DNA inside cancer cells can help direct drug development efforts for the hardest-to-treat subtypes of ovarian cancer,” says Dr. Sohrab Shah, senior scientist at the BC Cancer Agency, who led the research.

The other subtypes were found by analyzing clear cell, endometriod and adult granulosa cell ovarian cancers. The results suggest that some of these subtypes may be susceptible to existing treatments. Clinical trials are needed to confirm the results, however.

More than 300 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year in B.C.


PM jogs into prom pix

A group of Vancouver high school graduates say a chance encounter with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during their prom photoshoot made their graduation that much more memorable.

“You look at your grad night and you hope for a memorable time, but I don’t think we could’ve dreamt up a more memorable experience than that,” graduate Alex Horner told CTV Vancouver. “It was really nice.”

The prime minister was in Surrey on Friday before going for a jog along the Stanley Park seawall. That’s when Adam Scotti, Trudeau’s official photographer, snapped a photo of the prime minister running past a group of unsuspecting teens.

The boys in the photo are from Vancouver College, an all-boys university preparatory Catholic school in the city’s Shaughnessy neighbourhood. The girls are their prom guests, according to Dante Luciani, a teacher at the school.

Scotti posted the image to Twitter on Friday evening with the caption “Prom season in #Vancouver.”

Most of the teens, who were gathered along the Stanley Park seawall for prom photos, seemed unaware of Trudeau’s presence.

But a photo taken by prom photographer Cam Corrado confirmed that the prime minister did stop for a group shot with the students.

“He kind of like saw us, looped around and was like, ‘Who’s the bride? Who’s the bride?’ ” Sofia Kalil, one of the people in the photo, told CTV Vancouver. “He thought it was a wedding.”

After a quick explanation, the teens got a group shot with the prime minister.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

Long wait for ferries

Many Vancouverites looking to leave the city for the long weekend waited for hours to board ferries on Friday, despite BC Ferries adding dozens of extra sailings.

Travellers who didn’t make reservations ahead of time were caught off guard by the volume of vehicles and walk-on passengers waiting to get onto the vessels.

“Everybody’s going away for the weekend, so I thought getting the 8 o’clock or the 5 o’clock might be crowded,” said one man.

Some, however, made the most of the wait.

“If you want to spend $15 to make a reservation…it’s pretty easy and it’s totally worth it, especially if you’ve got kids, family or you’ve got to be somewhere in a hurry, whereas obviously I don’t,” said one ferry-goer at Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal who used the time to clean his truck.

BC Ferries announced last week it would add a total of 89 extra sailings on its most popular routes for the Victoria Day long weekend, including 60 extra sailings from the Tsawwassen terminal.

The latest information on ferry departures and wait times is available on BC Ferries’ twitter feed. 

With files from CTV Vancouver

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