Sunday, February 1st-0.7°C

Crash leaves 1 in critical condition

A woman in her late 30s has been airlifted to hospital in critical condition after a serious crash in Whistler, B.C.

Whistler RCMP responded to a call just before 7:30 a.m. Sunday about a two-vehicle accident on Highway 99.

Mounties say a car travelling northbound on the highway, just north of Nordic, lost control and slid into the southbound lane.

A minivan travelling southbound collided with the car on the passenger side.

Sgt. Rob Knapton says the female driver of the car was airlifted to hospital with critical injuries, while the two occupants of the minivan were shaken, but uninjured.

He says it was snowing at the time but investigators are still determining the cause of the crash.

“It snowed overnight and it’s got a couple of inches of snow on the ground and it is a little bit slippery out and we’re looking into if that was a contributing factor or not,” Knapton said.

Knapton reminded drivers to be prepared for snowy conditions and drive with caution.

“It’s important for people to remember that they need to drive according to conditions and make sure they’ve got snow tires or appropriate equipment in their vehicles so that they can handle it,” he said. “When it snows like this especially after a long period without snow, just [remember] to slow down.”

RCMP and traffic services are currently investigating.

-- With files from CTV Vancouver

The Canadian Press


Orcas caught on camera


Living on Canada’s left coast, it isn’t rare for us to see many different forms of wildlife congregating in their natural habitat. But when they can be seen up close, it makes for an even more awe-inspiring moment, especially when caught on film.

This video was taken last week by Chris Wilton and uploaded to YouTube. The amateur videographer was lucky enough to catch a group of orcas rubbing themselves on some pebbles, just metres from shore.

Wilton can be heard chatting in amazement with a handful of other lucky onlookers, as the mammals continue to move about in the shallow waters in front of them.

At least four orcas can be seen in the video as they glide up and down the shore, sometimes thrashing about on the stones just below the surface.

According to the Orca Network’s Facebook page, which has also shared the video, it was taken somewhere in the Discovery Islands.

“Absolutely remarkable footage of Northern Resident Orca with their culturally unique behaviour of rubbing themselves on beaches like this ("Residents" are inshore fish-eaters). I happen to be with whale researchers Janie Wray and Christie McMillan and we believe these whales are the A42 matrliine. The big male is very distinct - he is A66 born in 1996,” says Jackie Hildering, a biology teacher and whale researcher from Vancouver Island who runs an ocean website called The Marine Detective.


Serious crash cuts power

CTV Vancouver reports a one-car accident on the Georgia Viaduct caused significant traffic delays Saturday evening and left nearly 2,000 homes without power.

According to the Vancouver police, an eastbound car lost control, rolled over and caused extensive damage to the power lines just before 5 p.m.

Emergency crews were on scene attending to the driver who was the only person in the car. Crews had to wait until the power was shut off to pull the man from his car.

The investigation is ongoing and the victim’s injuries are unknown.

Much of Gastown, the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown were without power as a result of the crash.


More snow in the forecast

Let’s hope that Okanagan residents enjoyed Saturday’s blue sky, because things certainly have changed.

Sunday morning has brought an overcast sky, along with light snow that will become mixed with rain sometime this afternoon.

The clouds will stick around for Groundhog Day and throughout the rest of the week, bringing with it snow, flurries and rain showers.

Fog patches are expected to develop overnight with more snow in the forecast for Monday morning. Environment Canada is forecasting about five centimetres to fall both Sunday and Monday, with a 40 per cent chance of flurries or rain for Tuesday.

Canada’s very own weather prognosticators found in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and Nova Scotia will inform us tomorrow on whether or not to expect six more weeks of winter. Just last year, a new forecaster entered the mix – Toronto’s Dundas Donna; but it was Ontario’s Wiarton Willie who emerged from his cozy den and immediately spotted his shadow in 2014, signaling the continuation of what had already been a long, cold, snowy winter.

Environment Canada predicts the lows this week to hover around the freezing mark, with daytime highs reaching seven degrees by Friday.

But you may want to pack an umbrella, as there is a chance of rain almost every day this week.

UBC 'sailbot' aims to cross ocean

Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean by wind power alone is an impressive achievement by any standard.

But contending with the unpredictable weather, busy freight traffic, meddlesome fishing nets and treacherous icebergs without anyone in the pilot's seat is another feat entirely.

This summer, a team of engineering students from the University of British Columbia is hoping its 5.5-metre-long boat will sail into the history books as the first seafaring vessel to successfully traverse the Atlantic entirely solo.

"It's been tried many times but never actually successfully," said Kristoffer Vik Hansen, co-captain of the 66-person UBC robotic sailboat — or Sailbot — team.

"Basically we're trying to make a big, big sailboat, make it autonomous and sail it across the Atlantic Ocean."

Come August, the crew plans to launch the still un-christened sailbot off the coast of St. John's, N.L., and hope the vessel survives the 2,900-kilometre, three-week journey to Dingle, Ireland.

"This project is cool because it mixes something that's really old and something that's really new," said Vik Hansen, standing beside the ship's still-under-construction hull inside the sailbot team's tool-strewn, on-campus shop.

Hanging above the bustling workplace are the smooth, water-worn hulls and logo-covered sails of the team's previous competition champions.

"Sailing has been around for thousands of years. Robotics has not been around for that many years," he added. "It's kind of the intersection of two very different disciplines."

While the university's sailbot team has officially existed since 2006, its most recent project has been in the works only since 2012, following three successive first-place finishes in international sailbot regattas.

The crew's continuing success with several smaller two-metre boats helped provide the inspiration behind tackling this summer's more ambitious, trans-Atlantic challenge.

To complete the journey the sailbot will use solar panels to power a slew of onboard navigation and obstacle-avoidance technology, including thermal imaging to sense boat traffic and icebergs, as well as GPS co-ordinates to steer around inclement weather and fishing zones.

Vik Hansen described the project as an interdisciplinary venture, combining mechanical, electrical and software engineering expertise to overcome the unique challenges posed by trans-ocean travel.

"The uniqueness comes in how we're basically melting together the different parts of engineering," said the fifth year integrated engineering student, originally from Norway. "That's where we're unique."

A number of university and corporate sponsors are underwriting the $60,000 project. The total cost is now expected to come in slightly above that figure in order to allow the team to install on-board backups that will safeguard against any systems failing partway through the voyage.

Still, the need to consider every possible scenario in a real-life situation is part of the project's appeal, said Vik Hansen.

"It's not some kind of lab where everything's tip-top shape," he said. "You're working with real nature; you're sailing on the ocean."

Vik Hansen said there is little demand for automated sailboats in real-world applications. However, the team's route-finding programs that take into account and respond to factors such as weather patterns and trade routes could hold commercial value for modern-day ships.

As for this summer's trans-Atlantic challenge, once the boat launches the team is not permitted to interfere with its journey. That won't stop them from travelling overseas to celebrate the sailbot's anticipated success.

"When we go over to Ireland and we're out there, waiting for it to come towards us, and we see it coming towards the finish line, that's going to be the moment," said Vik Hansen, smiling broadly.

"That's when the champagne comes."


The Canadian Press

Enchanted Forest up for sale

Whether you're five-years-old or 60, if you've travelled through B.C. you may have spent some time at The Enchanted Forest.

The magical roadside attraction between Revelstoke and Sicamous has been a staple in the BC experience for children since it opened its doors in 1960, and now it is up for sale. 

The park's current owners, Rocky and Juliet Ehlers, have run the attraction for over 25-years and say it is now time to retire and pass on the reins.

“We are getting old,” says Rocky Elhers with a chuckle.

He says it was a hard decision to give up his beloved home but it was time for his wife and him to move on.

He tells Castanet it has been an honour serving Canadians for the last 25-years. He says it brings tears to his eyes thinking of the loyalty the public has shown his family for so long.

The 38.1-acre park featuring both the Enchanted Forest and the SkyTrek Adventure Park is going for $2.7M; an amount they say is priced below its appraised value.

While several have shown interest in the park, the Elhers are taking their time looking for the perfect buyer. Someone they hope will give the same attention and care to the park and its visitors that they have for so long.

He hopes the new owner, whomever that will be, will bring fresh ideas and concepts to build on the vision of creating a place that provides lasting memories and fantasy for the whole family.

Once the right buyer is found, the Elhers look forward to their first summer off in decades and hope to travel all the other gorgeous parts of B.C. and Canada they haven't had a chance to see.

The Elhers took over the property all those years ago from the Needhams who first acquired the property in the 1950s.

Mrs. Doris Needham was an artist in Revelstoke during the fifties and made unusual fairy tale figurines from cement.

Desiring to find the perfect setting for her handiwork, she searched for two years and finally chose the unique but isolated location between Revelstoke and Sicamous.

The endeavour turned into a retirement project, which Doris and her husband Ernest named their “Enchanted Forest”.

The Needhams were isolated for years developing the forest's 40-acres and on July 1, 1960, The Enchanted Forest officially opened to the public.

Taken over by the Elhers in 90s, the park now boasts over 85,000 visitors a year and is looking for a new permanent resident to carry on its enchanted and storybook legacy.

The Elhers's realtor Steve Daschuk says his phone has been ringing off the hook with interested buyers.

While no official offer has been made, a sale may not be too far off but they have to find the right person. 

"It is a very good business for the next person to take over and expand," says Daschuk. "There is a ton of potential." 

He says it is important for fans of the park to know the buyer will have to be committed to keeping the park open and continuing the tradition.  

For more information on the sale of the park check our their website here.  


Conservative MP will not run again

A British Columbia Conservative MP has decided not to seek re-election, saying it is time for him to move on to a new chapter of his life.

Randy Kamp has served the riding of Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission since 2004, and made the announcement Saturday at a local meeting of the party.

Kamp issued a statement that says he informed Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week that he will not run again, after "considerable soul-searching."

He says about four years ago his hearing suddenly began to decline, to the point where he has profound loss in his left ear and severe loss in his right.

Kamp says his hearing loss was not the main factor in his decision, but it has made his job more difficult despite technology that has helped him cope.

He says in recent months he has felt a growing sense that it was time to move on after being involved with federal politics for 18 years, but he doesn't know what lies ahead yet.

The Canadian Press

More crime, fewer murders

New statistics show that violent crime rose overall in Surrey, last year — but the number of murders went down by more than 30 per cent.

Surrey RCMP released its fourth-quarter crime statistics this week, revealing that violent crime rose by 7 per cent in 2014 compared to the previous year.

Violent crimes include murders, sexual assaults and robberies, and there were 52 per cent more of such crimes in last year's fourth quarter compared to the same quarter in 2013.

But the Vancouver-area city — where reducing crime became a major focus of last fall's municipal election — saw 17 homicides in 2014, compared to 25 in 2013.

Mounties say they continue to target dangerous locations to help reduce homicides, and the majority of murders were domestic-related or involving those in high-risk lifestyles.

Property crime rose 22 per cent in Surrey last year, an increase that RCMP say is occurring across the Lower Mainland and is largely driven by motor vehicle crimes.

The Canadian Press

Truckers protest at Port Metro

B.C. truckers staged a protest on Saturday against new licensing rules at Port Metro Vancouver.

They say more than 600 truckers and office staff will lose their jobs because of the new requirements.

Owners and operators were required to apply to the Port for a license, but a number of them were rejected.

Paul Dhaliwal owns and operates a trucking company and says he wants the Port to negotiate with truckers to find a better solution.

He says the port rejected his application for a license without telling him what he could change to be approved.

Hundreds, including truckers' families and their children, attended the afternoon rally in Surrey. 

The Canadian Press

Crash shuts power to thousands

A single-vehicle crash in Vancouver snarled traffic and cut power to thousands of homes on Saturday evening.

Vancouver Police say a car travelling eastbound on the Georgia Viaduct lost control just before 5 p.m.

The car rolled over and caused extensive damage to power lines.

Police say emergency crews are attending to the male driver and the extent of his injuries are not immediately known.

Drivers are facing long delays on the viaduct, an overpass that links Strathcona with downtown Vancouver.

BC Hydro says nearly 2,000 customers are without power in surrounding neighbourhoods, including Gastown, Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside.

The Canadian Press

Woman saved from river dies

UPDATE 10:15 A.M.

Despite the efforts of multiple rescue and medical personnel, The Comox Valley RCMP say the 26 year old Comox Valley woman pulled from the river did not survive.  The woman’s 7 month old son, also rescued from the waters, was airlifted to BC Children’s Hospital, where he remains at this time in critical condition.

“Our heartfelt sympathies go out to this family”, says Sgt. Kevin Mazur.  “Based on the evidence and information we have gathered so far, there is no indication that any third party was involved in the pair entering the water.”

Investigators are asking anyone who may have witnessed the pair near or in the waters of the Puntledge River prior to 2:40 p.m. on January 30 to call the Comox Valley RCMP at 250-338-1321.


Emergency crews in the Comox Valley saved a woman and child from the waters of the Puntledge River, Friday afternoon.

Police were alerted by multiple 9-1-1 calls reporting a woman and a small child were seen floating in the Puntledge River, by the Condensory Bridge.

Cst. Don Sinclair says waters in the river are fast flowing at this time.

"Police were on scene within minutes of the first call. The RCMP helicopter was also on scene and assisted in locating the child. The child was immediately transported to St. Joseph’s hospital by BC Ambulance Services,” he says.
The child’s condition is not known.

The woman was located a short time later and transported to hospital, says Sinclair.   Her condition is also unknown.

An active investigation is underway to identify the woman and child, and notify their family.

"At this time, it is not known how they came to enter the river,” says Sinclair.

Booze rules may need tweak

B.C.'s new booze rules could be breaking international free-trade agreements, according to a California-based wine group.

The new rules are set to come into effect April 1. Among the changes is the planned introduction of B.C. VQA wines to grocery stores, which would not be governed by the "store within a store" model for liquor and craft beer. 

On Jan. 21, Tom LaFaille, vice-president and international trade counsel for the Wine Institute, an association of 1,000 California wineries and businesses, penned a letter to Premier Christy Clark saying that if stores were allowed to sell B.C. wines only, that would break several international agreements.

"We believe that the proposal allowing only B.C. Vintners Quality Alliance wines to be sold at B.C. grocery stores should be withdrawn or modified to allow for the sale of imported wines. Since these new opportunities are not extended to imported wines, they violate Canada's international trade obligations, including NAFTA, GATT and the EU-Canada Agreement on wine sales," reads the letter.

The letter goes on to say that only certain stores protected by a 1987 grandfather clause can favour B.C. VQA wines, and any new stores would be in breach of Canada's international obligations.

Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton gave Castanet the following statement with regard to the letter:

“I’m aware of the correspondence from the Wine Institute and the nature of the concerns – staff are reviewing the items raised in the letter.

"International trade agreements recognize that products should be treated equally and fairly. Our intention with our changes is to allow liquor in grocery stores and to find a balance that meets these requirements and also promotes the quality local products that are made and bottled in B.C.

"Our work to continue to modernize our liquor laws will result in more convenience for British Columbians, a fair promotion of B.C. wineries and products in stores, and a continued balance on maintaining the health and safety of customers.”

Anton did not say whether any changes to the law would delay the April 1 implementation. 

On Friday, Anton also announced a change to the wholesale wine pricing scheme that was revealed in November. 

The initial plan was to apply a base mark-up of 89 per cent to the first $11.75 per litre of wine, and a second-tier mark-up of 67 per cent on the remainder. 

The update will decrease the second tier mark-up from 67 per cent to 27 per cent in an apparent effort to keep wholesale prices more consistent with what industry sees today.

“Our wholesale pricing model is not intended to increase government revenue or retail prices. Rather, the model is designed to generate approximately the same amount of government revenue from each product category as we receive today," Anton said in a release.

Revenue from liquor sales in B.C. contributes more than $1.2 billion towards the provincial economy. 

40-year-old death ID'd

The body of an unknown man found in Vancouver almost four decades ago has finally been identified.

Coroner Bill Inkster says the body was recovered in July 1975 and transported to Saint Paul's Hospital for a forensic examination.

Inkster says despite extensive efforts by police and coroners, the man's body remained unidentified.

He says Roy Howe was eventually reported missing to the RCMP who were told in 2008 that he was 26 years old when he disappeared.

Inkster says modern forensics and enhanced identification tools developed by the corner service's disaster response unit finally linked the body and Howe.

He says the exhaustive post-mortem investigation was assisted by Vancouver police and RCMP missing persons units.

The Canadian Press

Okanagan businesses make top 5

The top five finalists for the 12th annual Small Business B.C. Awards have been announced, and several Okanagan businesses have made the list.

This year was the biggest yet for the competition, with more than 460 nominations received from 70 communities.

Eight local businesses made the top five in six categories, including Kelowna's CoreHealth Technologies.

“It is great news," said CoreHealth CEO Anne Marie Kirby.

The Kelowna company has 14 employees and has been around more than 10 years.

"We are a software development company, a local tech company, that develops software for employee wellness,” said Kirby. 

CoreHealth Technologies is one of the only companies to be recognized in two categories, making top five in both the Best Company and Best Workplace groups.

Kirby says their pitch will be ready to go for the final presentation on Feb. 11. “It would certainly be nice to say we are an award-winning company.”

Kelowna's Float Space also made the top five in the Emerging Entrepreneur category.

“It is a nice appreciation of our efforts,” says co-owner Dustin Erickson. “You know, I built this company while going to school full time and have done it day in and day out with no returns because I wanted to spread the good news of floating.”

Erickson says he knows exactly what he is going to say at his presentation in Vancouver. He wants to continue spreading education about the benefits of floating.  

To make it to the top five, nominated businesses first had to rally the support of their community and gather the most votes to make it through to the top 10, announced in December.

The businesses were then narrowed down by the judges to the top five in 10 categories.

The finalists will head to Vancouver Feb. 11 to present a Dragons' Den-style pitch to the judges in hopes of convincing them they should be named a B.C. best business.

Winners will be announced on Feb. 26 at the Small Business B.C. Awards Ceremony in Vancouver.

Okanagan businesses that made the top five include:


  • Firehall Brewery – Oliver
  • So Country Radio – Penticton


  • CoreHealth Technologies – Kelowna


  • Nourish - Kelowna
  • Soil Mate – Kelowna


  • Float Space – Kelowna


  • The Greenery Garden Centre – Kelowna


  • CoreHealth Technologies – Kelowna
  • Mel's Mainstreet Pizza & Pasta - Enderby

More information on the Small Business B.C. Awards can be found at

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