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Rock quarry deaths

The names of two men who died earlier this week in an industrial accident near Cranbrook have been released by the BC Coroners Service.

Murray Neil Fadden, 36, of Dryden, Ontario and Larry John Chorneyko, 58, of Arran, Saskatchewan were killed Tuesday when the vehicle they were driving flipped.

The pair were working at a rock-quarry mining operation known as Swansea Ridge Quarry, located about 16 kilometres south of Cranbrook.

They were driving down a steep descent in a Mini Mack truck when the crash occurred. Both men were found deceased at the scene.

An investigation by the BC Coroners Service and the BC Inspector of Mines continues.





Driver error caused bus crash?

British Columbia's transportation minister says a highway crash that injured dozens of tour bus passengers last month was most likely caused by driver error.

The bus flipped into a ditch on the Coquihalla Highway south of Merritt, B.C., ejecting multiple passengers and leaving all 56 people aboard with varying injuries.

RCMP have already ruled out speed as a cause of the accident, and provincial Transportation Minister Todd Stone says that mechanical failure has also been eliminated as a factor following an inspection of the bus.

A final police report still has to be filed, but Stone told Kamloops radio station CHNL that driver fatigue potentially led to the crash and his ministry will review the length of time that drivers can operate a vehicle before there is a mandated rest.

The bus was operated by Western Bus Lines, and someone who answered the phone at the company's Kelowna office said no one is available to speak to Stone's comments.

The bus crashed on Aug. 28 while returning to Vancouver from a tour of the Rocky Mountains with passengers from Canada, mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States.

The Canadian Press


Murder suspect arrested

A 20-year-old man wanted in connection with a murder in a Seattle suburb managed to cross the border into B.C. before being arrested Wednesday night.

CTV Vancouver reports police in Abbotsford were alerted that fugitive Kevin D. Patterson had entered the Fraser Valley city around 6:30 p.m. by the King County Sheriff’s Office and Canadian Border Services Agency.

Const. Ian MacDonald said officers received word shortly after that the suspect had been spotted at a local hotel.

“We descended on that hotel and at 8:45 p.m. we arrested the 20-year-old as well as an 18-year-old man. Both were taken into custody without further incident,” MacDonald said.

It’s believed the men know each other and crossed the border in the same vehicle, MacDonald said.

The younger man’s name hasn’t been released.

Earlier that day, police responded to reports of an altercation at a home in Sammamish, Wash. and found a man’s body inside.

Officers haven’t revealed the cause of death, but neighbours told KOMO News they heard screams and a banging sound overnight.

Patterson is originally from Penticton, according to his Facebook page.

He’s facing charges of possession of stolen property, illegal entry into Canada, and fraudulent use of credit cards in B.C. on top of any charges in Washington, MacDonald said.



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Teachers' vote results

Breaking News: 86 per cent of teachers vote yes to accept the tentative deal from the province.

In total 31,741 teachers voted Thursday, 27,275 voted yes, 4,392 voted no.

Minister of Education Peter Fassbender said "On behalf of government, I want to thank and congratulate B.C. teachers for voting in favour of the agreement reached earlier this week between the BCTF and BCPSEA bargaining teams.

"We have one of the best public education systems in the world, and that's in large part because we have such great teachers."

The agreement gives teachers a 7.25 per cent raise, increases health benefits and on-call rates. It also establishes a $400 million fund to hire specialist teachers.

Patti Bacchus, chair of the Vancouver School Board, tweeted that school boards still have to ratify the deal for it to be final. The Vancouver School Board ratified the deal tonight, "I think they're trying to get all districts done by tomorrow," she said on Twitter.

Livestream from the BC Teachers' Federation.



Police watchdog looks at shooting

British Columbia's police watchdog is investigating after a man was killed during a police-involved shootout near Valemount.

RCMP Insp. Ed Boettcher says police were maintaining a stakeout of a cabin on Kinbasket Lake on Wednesday after receiving a complaint that a man and a woman were living there illegally.

When some officers came to relieve their colleagues on the watch, their cover was allegedly compromised by the man and woman and shots were fired at them.

Boettcher says police returned fire and the man, who was wanted on several unendorsed warrants, was killed while the woman was injured and taken to the hospital.

No police officers were wounded, and two rifles were seized from the scene.

The Independent Investigations Office has taken over the investigation of the incident.

The Canadian Press


Nurses protest in Nanaimo

With teachers preparing to vote on ratifying their deal with the B.C. government, the province’s nurses appear to be next in line for contract talks – but some are already gearing up for a fight.

CTV Vancouver reports nurses in Nanaimo took to the street on Wednesday to rally against a new patient care model they say has left them brutally understaffed at Nanaimo General Hospital.

“They can’t let this continue,” said Gayle Duteil, the president of the BC Nurses’ Union. “I walked the hospital on Sunday night. I saw nurses with eight patients, fresh, post-op patients. The conditions on some of those floors were horrible, and I’m a practicing nurse.”

Duteil says the current conditions are a result of replacing nurses with care aides – and failing to hire nurses to keep up with demand.

B.C.’s nurses are largely an essential service, but reducing overtime could impact less important surgeries. Unionized hospital workers already say they will not cross picket lines, and that could lead to even further disruptions.

In the tentative deal struck this week, B.C. teacher’s received a 7.25 per cent raise over the six years – a deal worth a raise of only a few hundred dollars a year over what other public sector workers are getting.

According to a local labour expert, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room for negotiations.

“The government basically held the line on its wage guidelines,” said Mark Thompson of the Sauder School of Business. “They were happy about that I’m sure, and it would be much harder for any of the unions coming forward to try to break that guideline. If the teachers couldn’t do it after three weeks on strike, what hope is there?”

B.C. Premier Christy Clark, on the other hand, sounded optimistic that there would be room to negotiate.

“We squirrelled away the money for those increases for all of the 300,000 public employees for whom we pay,” Clark said Thursday at a news conference in Kelowna. “ With a little more than half done, we’ve still got some money left over to make sure we can look after everybody else, including nurses, who will be bargaining soon. We budgeted for it, it’s there.”

That money paid for a fund to hire new teachers. If similar funds can be used to hire more nurses, another costly strike could be avoided.



Body found was missing girl

The search for a missing Surrey teenager has ended in tragedy, reports CTV Vancouver.

Surrey RCMP has confirmed that the body of a young person found near the Surrey Central Works Yard Tuesday night is that of 17-year-old Serena Vermeersch, who was reported missing earlier that day.

Her body was discovered at around 7 p.m. Tuesday near the train tracks on 144 Street.

Officials call the death suspicious and Surrey’s Serious Crimes Unit is now canvassing neighbourhood residents for more information.

Vermeersch was last seen getting onto a city transit bus on the corner of 64 Avenue and 128 Street at around 8:10 p.m. Monday. Anyone who encountered her is asked to call RCMP.

Investigators are also looking to speak to a man seen on the railroad tracks at 66 Avenue and Hyland Road between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. Tuesday. He was reportedly seen departing in a grey or silver pickup truck.

An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday morning, and investigators hope it will provide more clues into what happened to Vermeersch.

In a release issued after she went missing, police said Vermeersch’s disappearance was “out of character,” according to her family, and had never gone missing before.

Anyone with information is asked to call Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502 and quote file #2014-133961 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.



Watchdog investigates shooting

British Columbia's police watchdog is investigating after a man was killed during a police-involved shootout near Valemount.

RCMP Insp. Ed Boettcher says police were maintaining a stakeout of a cabin on Kinbasket Lake on Wednesday after receiving a complaint that a man and a woman were living there illegally.

When some officers came to relieve their colleagues on the watch, their cover was allegedly compromised by the man and woman and shots were fired at them.

Boettcher says police returned fire and the man, who was wanted on several unendorsed warrants, was killed while the woman was injured and taken to the hospital.

No police officers were wounded, and two rifles were seized from the scene.

The Independent Investigations Office has taken over the investigation of the incident.

The Canadian Press


It's decision day for teachers

More than half a million public school students in British Columbia should know by the end of the day whether they'll be heading back to class as early as next week.

The BC Teachers' Federation is asking its more than 40,000 members to ratify a new collective agreement with the provincial government and is expected to release the results of the vote tonight.

Study sessions will be held this morning for members so they can learn more about the proposed six-year deal and ask questions.

The proposed contract includes a 7.25 per cent salary increase, improvements in extended health benefits and the teaching-on-call rate, an education fund to address class size and composition issues, and money to address retroactive grievances.

Victoria teacher Tara Ehrcke says she's very disappointed and if the contract is ratified teachers will be saying Yes to conditions that aren't good enough.

Labour lawyer Ritu Mahil says if the union's leaders think it's a good deal then members should take that recommendation seriously, and the deal was probably the best they could get at the time.

The Canadian Press


Surrey Mayor seeks Tory nod

The outgoing mayor of British Columbia's second-largest city says she hopes to run for the federal Conservative party in the next election.

Dianne Watts announced last April that she wouldn't seek re-election for another term as mayor in the Metro Vancouver city of more than 468,000 people.

She now says she'll seek the Conservative nomination in South Surrey for the election that's scheduled for Oct. 19, 2015.

Watts says she considered local issues, like rapid transit, rail safety, and movement of goods, as well as global issues affecting Russia, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

She says she asked herself who she wants to be at the helm dealing with those issues and the only answer was Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Watts served nine years on city council and was elected three times as mayor, and during the last municipal election won by more than 80 per cent. (News 1130, The Canadian Press)

The Canadian Press


Teachers debate tentative deal

The initial euphoria of getting a negotiated deal in the bitter BC teachers' strike has worn off and now more than 40,000 union members are tallying their wins and losses before voting on the contract.

Members of the BC Teachers' Federation will weigh in on whether the agreement reached after six days of intense bargaining was worth five weeks off the job and thousands of dollars lost in wages.

Business Prof. Fiona McQuarrie, at the University of the Fraser Valley, says she expects most teachers will consider how deeply they were affected by the strike as they decide how to vote.

Labour lawyer Ritu Mahil says the recommendation to vote in favour of the tentative deal indicates the union executive believes it's the best deal they could have reached.

Victoria teacher Tara Ehrcke says she doesn't believe the union gained enough despite the struggles teachers faced, noting her read of the numbers in the tentative deal suggest only five to 10 schools will gain a new teacher.

Vancouver teacher Troy Hardwick says he's not sure the agreement will include enough money for his class to have resources such as a computer but he's glad he can get back to work and advocate for students.

The Canadian Press


Foul play in New West death

On September 16 at 4:30pm, the New Westminster Police Department attended a residence in the 1100 block of Nanaimo Street for a male found deceased within the residence.

It was determined by first responders that foul play was a factor in the individual’s death, therefore the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) has assumed conduct of the investigation.  At this early stage a motive is not known.

“IHIT is working closely with the New Westminster Police Department to determine what lead up to the victim’s death.  We are currently canvassing the area, speaking with witnesses and processing the scene,” says Staff Sergeant Jennifer Pound. 

“IHIT is aware that the victim’s family have been notified of his death through various channels; however, IHIT has yet to speak with the family and until we do confirmation on his identity, will not be released.”

Anyone that has any information about this incident is asked to contact the IHIT tipline at 1-877-551-4448, or if you wish to remain anonymous call Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477.



Hiker in trouble for rescued seal

Parks Canada is investigating a woman who found a seal pup in distress on Vancouver Island last weekend and tried to rescue it.

CTV Vancouver reports the woman was hiking the West Coast Trail in Pacific Rim National Park when she found the baby seal beached on Sunday. The pup was missing an eye, and appeared to be near-death.

She somehow managed to remove the seal from the park, brought it aboard a boat, and took it to Port Renfrew. The hiker then checked into a hotel with the seal in tow, and contacted the Vancouver Aquarium to take over.

Though her efforts may have saved the pup’s life, they were also illegal.

Parks Canada’s Nathan Cardinal said people need permission to remove an animal from a national park, and the well-meaning hiker could be facing a fine.

“We’re not assuming she’s doing it for any sort of nefarious purpose, but that seal pup does play a role in the natural world... and can act as an important food source for other species,” Cardinal said.

“Death isn’t a pretty thing to see – it can be quite brutal in some instances – but it has an important role for the ecosystem.”

Cougars, wolves, bears, killer whales and even flies rely on marine mammals for sustenance, he added.

Instead of removing distressed animals, park users are encouraged to keep their distance and contact Parks Canada. Cardinal said staff members follow up on all reports.

Vancouver Aquarium head veterinarian Martin Haulena also discouraged the public from intervening with a distressed animal outside national parks, urging people to contact the Marine Mammal Rescue Team instead.

“Often there’s nothing wrong with these animals at all. They’re waiting for mom to come back from foraging, they’re learning how to forage on their own,” Haulena said.

The recued female harbour seal pup is under 24-hour care at the Marine Mammal Rescue Recovery Centre. Veterinarians say it's too early to know if it will survive.



Accident on set claims life

An accident on the Vancouver-area set of a popular science-fiction television series connected to Steven Spielberg has claimed the life of a security guard.

Scott McCloy of WorkSafeBC says the accident happened Monday night on the Burnaby set of the TV series, "Falling Skies."

He says a five-ton truck was parked on a slope, with its tailgate down to unload equipment, when the vehicle rolled backwards and pinned the worker to a tree.

McCloy says the unidentified worker was taken to Royal Columbia Hospital in New Westminster, but died of his injuries.

Turner Entertainment Networks says in a statement it is saddened by the tragic event and expresses its condolences to the security guard's family.

"Falling Skies" tells the fictitious story about the aftermath of an alien attack on the world, and its executive production team includes Spielberg and other members of DreamWorks Television.

The Canadian Press




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