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Dolphin has surgery

One of two Pacific white-sided dolphins at the Vancouver Aquarium is in serious condition after groundbreaking emergency surgery for a gastrointestinal disorder.

Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena says that while the procedure was successful, 21-year-old Hana being watched around the clock.

He says the normally energetic dolphin was listless earlier this week and that a team of experts flown in from across the United States confirmed she had gastrointestinal problems.

The cause is not yet known, but Haulena says it is a rapid and life-threatening condition among animals both in captivity and in the wild.

As Hana's condition deteriorated yesterday evening, the experts decided to try surgery using general anesthesia, which the aquarium says has never been done before on a dolphin or whale.

Haulena describes the surgery as a breakthrough in veterinary care and says such a procedure would have been considered impossible only a few years ago.

The Canadian Press


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Pursuit ends in arrest

Mounties say a man is in custody after a pursuit in Nanaimo, B.C., that involved several police cars being rammed and the suspect jumping into a frigid river.

Police say the 31-year-old man was wanted for a number of property- and driving-related offences in Ladysmith and Duncan and was being monitored by RCMP.

Mounties attempted to block his vehicle on Thursday, but say the suspect smashed his car into police cruisers and sped away.

RCMP say road spikes were deployed to deflate his tires but the man got out of his car and tried to hitchhike, though no one picked him up.

Mounties say the suspect leapt into the Nanaimo River but misjudged the water's depth and injured his ankle before swimming to shore and being taken into custody.

The man, whose name was not released, was expected to appear in court on Friday and is now facing a number of new charges including evading police, resisting arrest and dangerous driving.

The Canadian Press


Spill could cost big bucks

A major oil spill caused by Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion could cost Vancouver's economy up to $1.2 billion, according to a new report released by the city.

The report, conducted by the University of B.C.'s Fisheries Economics Research Unit, examines the potential economic costs of a 16 million litre spill in Burrard Inlet.

The City of Vancouver is publishing a series of reports critical of the expansion leading up to its submission of evidence next week to the National Energy Board, which is reviewing the proposed expansion.

The report says ocean-dependent industries directly employ 4 per cent of the city's population and contribute more than $3 billion in gross domestic product to Vancouver's economy every year.

Researchers analysed two spill scenarios in Burrard Inlet in May and in October, and found the economy would likely lose twice as much money in spring during peak tourist season.

Kinder Morgan hopes to triple its capacity to carry 890,000 barrels of petroleum a day by adding a second pipeline carrying between Alberta to Burnaby, B.C., prompting as much as a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet.

The Canadian Press


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Fires erupt in northern B.C.

The Prophet River fire is now estimated to cover 700 hectares, according to Jordan Turner, Fire Information Officer for the Wildfire Management Branch. Turner said the fire has "grown very quickly since yesterday." The fire is now roughly 14 kilometres away from the community of Prophet River.

Fire season has fully kicked off this week in northern B.C., as five new wildfires started in the Prince George area yesterday afternoon.

The largest of these new fires covers 250 hectares near the community of Prophet River, approximately 80 kilometres south of Fort Nelson. It was started yesterday in the late afternoon by a lightning strike, and is currently contained within the Klua Lakes Protected Area, 15 kilometres east of Prophet River.

An evacuation alert has be issued for the community of Prophet River and surrounding areas. The alert means residents should prepare for a possible evacuation.

Erin Lavale, emergency coordinator for the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, said that while there are some cabins in the Klua Lakes Protected Area, the fire has not yet reached any.

Other new fires in the area include a six-hectare fire southwest of Miworth and and a 1.5 hectare fire south of Mackenzie.

Airtankers, helicopters and ground crews are currently responding to these fires, according to the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch

The Little Bobtail Lake wildfire south of Prince George has been burning since May 9, and is currently estimated to be 25,000 hectares.

The current fire danger rating in the Prince George Fire Centre is high, with large areas rated extreme. This is due to a long period of high temperatures and low precipitation in the area. As of May 13, category two and three fires are banned in the area, which include larger open fires, grass fires, and the burning of waste.

Open fires under one half-metre tall and one half-metre wide are still allowed in the area.

An interactive map of all fires burning in B.C. can be found on the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch website.

To report a wildfire, call 1-800-663-5555.



Guilty plea in beating death

The man accused of second-degree murder in the beating death of British Columbia hockey mom Julie Paskall has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

Yosef Gopaul admitted to manslaughter in the death of the woman who went to a Surrey arena to pick up her 16-year-old son, who'd been refereeing a minor hockey game.

Paskall died in hospital two days later, on Dec. 31, 2013.

Angry residents demanded solutions to the high crime rate as her death became the 25th homicide that year.

Even before Paskall was killed, the mayor had launched a task force to come up with solutions the growing crime problem.

Gopaul, who had moved to Surrey from Ontario just eight weeks before Paskall's death, was arrested and charged in May last year.

After a preliminary hearing in January, Gopaul was ordered to stand trial for Paskall's murder that took place in the neighbourhood of Newton.

On the second anniversary of her death, the Newton Community Association said little had changed to address residents fears about crime since the murder.

Earlier this week, the federal government announced funding for 100 more RCMP officers in Surrey, and $3.5 million over five years for an anti-gang program.

Police have said Gopaul has a criminal record but not in British Columbia.

The Canadian Press


Free rides due to fire

TransLink says public transit will be free across Metro Vancouver today after a "freak accident" shut down a major SkyTrain line.

The Expo Line has been halted between Burnaby and Vancouver after a spark from routine track maintenance ignited a bird's nest under a track.

The blaze burned through part of a communications cable at about 11 p.m. Thursday and crews weren't able to repair it before the morning rush.

TransLink is advising people who take the Expo Line between Waterfront and Joyce-Collingwood station to find alternate travel arrangements.

It says transit will be free for its entire service area for all of Friday, after the disruption caused heavy crowds and delays.

TransLink spokeswoman Anne Drennan says the fire was very brief but still managed to burn through about one metre of cable.

“I think you’d, in all fairness, have to call this a freak accident,” she says.

Repairs are expected to be completed by the late morning or early afternoon.

The Millennium line is operating from VCC-Clark to Columbia station, and regular Expo Line service is operating from Edmonds to King George station.

The Canadian Press


Message in a bottle

A group out canoeing made an unusual find in Victoria's inner harbour.

Now, they plan to honour the message they found in a bottle.

Tucked inside, they found a note reading: “If you find this bottle, please throw it back in the water, my wish is to see the world,” Russell Henry told CTV.

He's one of six members of the Soggy Beavers canoe team.

The bottle also contains what appear to be cremated human ashes, so the group nicknamed the bottle and its contents "Ash."

"There's really no way he's going to see much of the world (in the harbour),” Henry said.

So they decided to bring the bottle when they paddle 1,200 kilometres from Port Townsend, Wash., to Ketchikan, Alaska, in June.

The group plans to drop the bottle far enough north in the Pacific Ocean that currents take it all the way to Asia.

– with files from CTV Vancouver



Fight over murder site

A British Columbia regional district won't pay to clean up the remains of a trailer demolished seven years after a man murdered his three children inside.

The Merritt home where Allan Schoenborn stabbed his daughter and smothered his two sons has served as a loathsome reminder to the city since the killings in 2008.

The mobile home was torn down two months ago following a four-year struggle between the City of Merritt and the trailer's owners.

Afterwards, Wayne and Lynette Pyett asked the Thompson-Nicola Regional District to absorb a portion of the more than $10,000 in disposal fees they had to pay.

In a letter to the regional district, the Pyetts say the final three loads consisted of waterlogged soil as it was raining on the final day of demolition, and say it was not their intention to be charged for wet, heavy dirt.

But the regional district's board rejected the request, and Merritt Mayor Neil Menard said that the board wouldn’t be discussing the issue if the Pyetts had done the work in a timely fashion and on a sunny day.

The Pyetts say approximately 70 tons of debris was removed in 13 truckloads from the Merritt trailer park, and they now must invest in $3,000 of topsoil and landscaping to restore the lot. 

The Canadian Press


Ferry cuts plan sunk

BC Ferries is scrapping plans to trim services on its money-making major routes between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland.

Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall says it will find other areas within the company to cut $4.9 million instead of service reductions on the major routes.

Marshall says the major routes earn up to 80 per cent of company revenues, while the minor routes on the Gulf Islands and at northern ports are traditional money losers.

The major routes include Swartz Bay near Victoria to Tsawwassen south of Vancouver, Departure Bay in Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and Duke Point in Nanaimo to Tsawwassen.

BC Ferries' Commissioner Gord Macatee said in a recent report that the company is exceeding its target of making cuts worth $54 million.

Macatee also set ferry fare increases at 1.9 per cent, after several years of regular hikes of more than four per cent.

The Canadian Press


Ticket blitz hits mark

Mounties in Surrey may be dealing with a slight case of writer's cramp.

During the course of Canada Road Safety Week, Surrey RCMP were busy enforcing the rules of the road with a blitz on high-risk driving.

From May 12 to 18, Surrey RCMP, in conjunction with the Traffic Enforcement Unit, served 773 tickets. Of those, 211 were for speeding and 78 were for holding an electronic device. In addition, 44 impaired driving charges involving alcohol or drugs were levied. 

“We were hopeful the effect of the extra enforcement activities would reduce the number of serious motor vehicle incidents,” says Sgt. Gary Clarke of Surrey RCMP’s Traffic Enforcement Unit.

“Although impossible to measure what injuries or fatalities were prevented by our intervention, it’s safe to say the efforts by the Surrey RCMP ensured more motorists and pedestrians got home safely to their families.”

Police encourage the public to call 911 to report impaired or dangerous driving.



It's an elfie selfie

A B.C. man got the vacation photo of a lifetime in Thailand — and he can't even take credit for it.

Christian LeBlanc was feeding an elephant when the animal grabbed his GoPro camera, set to continuous shooting, and snapped a photo with its trunk.

The snapshot, which LeBlanc is calling the world's first elephant selfie — or "elphie" — has gone viral after the 22-year-old recently posted it on Instagram.

The University of British Columbia student and his girlfriend were travelling on the island of Koh Phangan two months ago with when they came across a couple of elephants.

LeBlanc says baskets of bananas were being sold for 50 cents to feed the pachyderms, but the elephant quickly became touchy when they ran out of food.

LeBlanc says he was in shock when the animal grabbed his camera and snapped the picture.

"Elephants are incredibly intelligent and it definitely makes you wonder if it was a conscious action," he says in an email.

He still can't believe the worldwide media coverage the photo has attracted.

"The global attention has been a total joy ride. I keep laughing when I see the story reach another outlet or country. To think my unexpected photo would make global news is almost unbelievable."

He jokes that his next goal is to get the attention of comedian and TV host Ellen DeGeneres, adding a hashtag: #elfieonellen.

LeBlanc had been studying abroad as part of a UBC program in Bangkok, but his semester ended two weeks ago and he is now travelling across Asia.

He and his girlfriend Laura Reid, both from White Rock are in the Philippines, where he says he's captured another "epic" selfie, this time of a whale shark.

The Canadian Press


Elderly stretched to limit

B.C.'s seniors' advocate is urging the provincial government to accept 18 recommendations to make housing more affordable, available and appropriate for the province's elderly.

Isobel Mackenzie has released a wide-ranging report after canvassing thousands of seniors across the province over the past year.

She says the No. 1 message she heard was that housing isn't meeting the needs of some seniors, 93 per cent of whom are living independently and whose greatest need is financial help.

The report calls on the province to increase subsidies for low-income seniors through the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters program.

Mackenzie says she worries some seniors are forgoing basics needs such as dental care and hearing aids in order to pay their rent.

The report also recommends developing a strategy for creating more housing in rural regions, and implementing a program that allows 80 per cent of seniors who own their homes to defer paying hydro, home insurance and major repairs until it is sold.

The Canadian Press


Bail for 2 in stabbing death

Two of four male teenagers charged with manslaughter in the stabbing death of a 19-year-old man in Whistler have been granted bail.

Three of the suspects, who are 17, were charged after Luka Gordic was pronounced dead at a local clinic following violence that erupted last Sunday.

Two were released Wednesday by a North Vancouver provincial court judge, but they face a number of conditions, including a curfew.

The third boy was denied bail and is to appear in court again on June 10.

The fourth teen is expected to have a bail hearing Thursday.

There's a publication ban on many details surrounding the stabbing, but investigators have said the suspects all know each other from the Vancouver area.

Gordic's uncle, Gianni Buono, was on hand for the hearing and says his family will return for the suspects' next court appearances.

“We’re prepared to stay the course and stay together, stay strong," he said.

"We’ve got a tremendous amount of community support. You know, we’re going to see this through.” 

The Canadian Press


More time for ATVers

The deadline for registering all-terrain vehicles as part of a changing provincial law has been pushed back to Nov. 1 from the original June 1 deadline.

The province has extended the deadline to give off-road users more time to get the mandatory registration, and to allow the details of the regulations to be finalized.

The new legislation, Bill 13 Off-Road Vehicle Act, requires all dirt-bikes, snowmobiles, quads and golf carts to display a licence plate or sticker and be insured if they are used on Crown land.

The combined cost of registration and the plate or sticker will cost $48, according to the B.C. government.

The legislation was introduced by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Resources in November, in an attempt to reduce the theft and sale of stolen off-road vehicles.

Currently, 20,000 people have voluntarily registered, well in advance of the deadline.





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