Friday, February 27th8.5°C

The next Schmirler the curler

Shannon England crisscrossed the globe during his wife's sporting career, and it would suit him just fine to do the same with another family member.

The husband of late curling legend Sandra Schmirler, England is at the Canada Winter Games watching his 17-year-old daughter Sara compete for Saskatchewan.

"I guess I'm destined to watch the women in my life curl," England said this week. "It is a lot of fun."

Schmirler won three national titles, three world championships and the first women's Olympic gold medal in curling before she died in March 2000 from cancer at age 36.

Sara England has decided not to talk to the media in Prince George this week, but her father sat down to chat about his daughter's progression and some of the attention she's been getting in recent weeks.

"I think the fact that everybody still thinks so highly of Sandra ... they want that connection to her," he said. "With Sara coming up and curling now there's that connection back to Sandra. I'm not really surprised.

"Sandra's legacy to this game is that when she and her team won the Olympics in '98, they really took curling forward. These ladies' teams have come so far."

Shannon England, who also curls competitively, added that Sara didn't get into the sport right away as a child.

"Probably a little bit about her mom," he said. "I was careful to introduce her to the game, but I didn't want to push her. It had to evolve itself."

Sara plays third on her Regina-based rink with skip Kaitlyn Jones, second Shantel Hutton and lead Rayann Zerr, and was set to meet Alberta in Friday's quarter-finals.

Shannon England said there are a lot of similarities between daughter and mother, including style of play, passion and drive.

"(Sara) doesn't like to lose, doesn't like to miss, very competitive. There's all those kinds of things, but she still enjoys the game and has fun," he said. "There's the focus. There's a lot of smiles and laughter with her team, but there's a lot of frowns when things aren't working out. It's amazing how similar they are."

Like many children of successful athletes, it's inevitable that Sara, who was just a toddler when Schmirler died, will be compared to her famous mother regardless of what she accomplishes.

It's something England has discussed with his daughter.

"It's pretty unfair to say there's expectations for you to win three Canadians, three worlds and Olympic gold and compare yourself to your mom. She told me: 'If I did that I'd never curl,'" he said. "You've just got to do it for the love of the game. People will judge and people will compare, but that's just natural. You do it for yourself."

He added that despite the increased exposure that comes with competing on the national stage, curling also remains a family affair.

"I can still get the better of her. Her mother always beat me," he said with a smile. "It's kind of fun now, but I don't think it will last much longer. I probably won't have a chance in a year or two."

The Canadian Press


Hydro scam hits businesses

Police in Delta say scammers have defrauded several businesses out of thousands of dollars by posing as BC Hydro employees collecting on supposedly overdue charges.

Business owners were told on the phone that unless they paid immediately their power would be cut off in less than an hour.

Police says callers have told Hydro customers to use a prepaid credit card to cover outstanding amounts and seemed legitimate because they referred to actual account numbers and billing histories.

BC Hydro says it does not ask customers to pay bills with prepaid credit cards and notifies them by mail if payments are overdue.

The utility has said fraudsters have targeted customers across the province in their attempts to steal money from residents and small businesses, especially restaurants.

Police say anyone who have received such calls should contact them and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

The Canadian Press

Canada's subs finally ready

Canada's Navy has fired off two simulated torpedo test shots in waters near Victoria to show the readiness of its submarine fleet after years of mechanical, technical and fire-related issues.

The force of the blowback from two simulated torpedo launches from the sub HMCS Victoria sent hats and notebooks flying and observers gasping in amazement.

Victoria's commanding officer Cmdr. Alex Kooiman says the 70-metre submarine is in full operational mode to perform its duties, in peace time or conflict.

Capt. Jamie Clarke of Canada's submarine fleet says the subs can perform under water for up to 40 days, and without detection.

He says the HMCS Windsor is back at sea after undergoing technical repairs, and preparations are underway to have HMCS Chicoutimi operating again after a deadly fire on board fire.

Clarke, while on board the Victoria, says Canada's submarines have a vast global range and have recently been deployed in the Arctic, the Panama Canal and Europe.

The Canadian Press


700 plants seized, 4 arrested

More than 700 pot plants were seized, and four individuals were arrested, after police took down a large marijuana grow-op in Falkland.

RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk says the Vernon North Okanagan Rural General Investigation Section began an investigation into the suspected grow operation last month.

“Their investigation determined that there was no medicinal marijuana licence associated to the property.”

A search warrant was obtained by police on Feb. 26 and Vernon/North Okanagan RCMP, with help from the South East District Emergency Response Team, attended the property.

“Search teams arrested four people who were on the property at the time, and assisted in the preliminary search of all the buildings,” explains Molendyk. “As a result, a large grow operation was located in the metal workshop. Over 700 plants have been seized.”

He says the four people were arrested without incident and taken into custody. The two men and two women arrested were reportedly from the Lower Mainland and Nelson.

“Targeting grow operations like this one is one of our detachment's strategic priorities, and it's important to the communities we police in the North Okanagan to disrupt this activity,” says Sgt. Percy, officer in charge of the GIS unit.

RCMP say the investigation is continuing and charges have not yet been laid.

Body found in SUV

Surrey RCMP's Serious Crime Unit is on the scene investigating a possible murder after a body was discovered inside a SUV.

RCMP report they received a call at 9:50 a.m. Friday morning to assist emergency health services with an unresponsive person in the 9500 block of 139th Street in Surrey.

When they arrived, they found a deceased person inside the vehicle.

“The cause of death and the identity have not been confirmed,” the Surrey RCMP media relations unit said in a press release. “Officers are interviewing witnesses and canvasing the area for further information.”

Traffic is currently being rerouted around the scene.

RCMP will release more details as they become available. 

Canada-wide hunt for man

Burnaby RCMP are seeking the public’s assistance in locating James Patrick Benson, who is wanted on a B.C. and Canada-wide arrest warrant.  

A B.C. warrant was issued against Benson, 34, following an alleged assault on Feb. 10. A Canada-wide warrant was subsequently issued under the Canadian Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Benson was last seen Feb. 11 at a residence located on the 7000 block of Balmoral Street in Burnaby. 

He is a two-time federal offender who was serving a long-term supervision order, which was to expire April 25, 2021.

Benson is described as Caucasian male, five-foot-10, 200 pounds, and has brown hair and brown eyes. He has tattoos with the numbers “011707” on his left wrist, the word “morbid” on his left forearm, a four-leaf clover and the words "lost soul" on his chest, and tattoos of red stars on both shoulders.  

“We are pursuing numerous investigative avenues ... and have not excluded the possibility that he may have left British Columbia,” says Sgt. Annie Linteau, Lower Mainland district media relations officer.  “We urge anyone to call police should they encounter Benson and use caution in their dealings with him."

Police ask anyone with information to contact Burnaby RCMP at 604-294-7922 (reference file 2015-6672) or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

That's one big ball of snakes

Workers unearthed writhing ball of more than 400 garter snakes in South Delta, Thursday.

The wriggling mass was found underneath rocks along a dyke at Boundary Bay.

The snakes were carefully put into storage containers and are now in the care of Burnaby’s Wildlife Rescue Association.

“Just as if they were continuing hibernation, we’re going to keep them nice and cool,” spokeswoman Janelle VanderBeek told CTV Vancouver.

The balling hibernation strategy keeps the snakes from freezing during the winter months. 

The snakes will be released once the weather has warmed up enough for them to survive, which is expected to be about the beginning of April.

— with files from CTV Vancouver

Shock as sisters die days apart

After 20-year-old Keziah Johnston died suddenly in early February, her devastated sister Shiloh wrote an email to their mother.

"You never know when your time's going to come. You have to cherish every moment," she wrote.

Just 10 days later, 22-year-old Shiloh died after being struck by a car that plowed into a power pole near where she was standing in Burnaby.

Family and friends of the two young sisters from Coquitlam are in shock that the "inseparable" pair died within days of each other.

Their cousin, Janica Lucas, said the duo were roommates, and Shiloh was heartbroken after her sister died on Feb. 7 of yet-to--be confirmed causes.

"It turned her world upside down," Lucas said Thursday. "This person she loved so much was gone. She didn't know how she was going to be able to cope with it."

"I think for that reason it's kind of a blessing that she didn't have to suffer for that long. They were only apart for 10 days."

She said Shiloh took time off to grieve, and was just returning to work on Feb. 17, when she was killed while she stood on a street corner on Canada Way near her workplace.

RCMP have said a white car collided with a grey Volkswagen before skidding along the centre median, crossing two lanes of traffic, crashing into the power pole and hitting Shiloh.

A celebration of Keziah's life on March 7, which Shiloh had been helping to plan, will now be a joint ceremony for the sisters.

Keziah had recently finished an esthetician course, and Shiloh worked at a tile store while pursuing her dream of becoming an artist. The older sister was also a devoted church-goer, who suffered with chronic pain from Crohn's disease.

"She was in a lot of pain, but you would never know it. She always had a smile on her face. She was always super happy and bubbly," Lucas said.

"It was a really unique bond. They just loved each other so much and were so grateful they had each other. They'd overcome lots of struggles, both of them."

Their mother, Jacquie Johnston, flew to Mexico to grieve after Keziah's death but will return to Canada on Friday, Lucas said. The sisters had no other siblings.

"She's completely in shock," Lucas said of the girls' mother. "She's coping as well as you possibly could in a situation like this."

Amanda Masih, Shiloh's best friend, said Shiloh was a "bright light" in the life of everyone she met.

"This girl was definitely an angel. I've never met anyone in my life like her before," said 28-year-old Masih.

An online fundraising campaign has been set up at to create a memorial bench to honour the sisters. More than $3,500 has been raised so far.

RCMP are still looking for witnesses to the crash that killed Shiloh.

The Canadian Press

Blockade damages overturned

British Columbia's top court says the province isn't liable for nearly $2 million in damages suffered by a logging company as a result of a First Nations' blockade.

The case in the B.C. Court of Appeal pitted the provincial government, Moulton Contracting Ltd., and several members of the Fort Nelson First Nation against each other.

It followed a lower-court ruling in December 2013, ordering the province to pay the company $1.75 million for failing to issue a warning about an imminent blockade to timber-harvest areas in B.C.'s northeast in 2006.

The government appealed, and Justice Risa Levine says the main issue focused on the timber licence and who is liable for third-party interference.

Levine says the lower-court judge erred in his ruling, noting a clause in the timber licence means the province can't be held liable for the company's losses because of the actions of a third party.

She set aside the order requiring the province to pay the $1.75 million in damages and told the company to pick up various court costs incurred by the province and the First Nation.

The Canadian Press

Tick season is upon us

This February's weather has been warmer than a typical winter and with that some pesky bugs are making an earlier than usual appearance.

West Kelowna veterinarian Dr. Moshe Oz is urging pet owners of the Okanagan to consider protecting their furry family from ticks as soon as possible.

“Usually we start the tick season around April but I think with the winter being so mild, it is getting warming faster. We have already had people in Peachland telling us they have seen a few ticks and their dogs had a few ticks on them,” explains Dr. Oz. “So it is little bit of earlier than normal season.”

Ticks search for warmth and often move from high grass and low bushes on to wild animals, humans, dogs and cats. They find a warm spot and burrow into the skin to suck blood.

Oz says ticks can cause many issues in our pets including tick paralysis, Lyme disease, irritation and local infections.

He says pet owners should keep a watchful eye for the annoying bugs.

“Check for the ticks on the dogs pads, behind the ears, inside the ears, around the tail area. This is usually where the ticks jump and start to suck the blood,” says Oz. “Usually ticks are extremely small, but the females jump on the dog and suck the blood and they become huge.”

With tick presence in mind he says it is time to take action.

“You can go to your vet and ask for tick prevention and tick control,” says Oz. “There are lots of different options out there. There are pills, spot on treatments that last a month and of course if you suspect there is a tick on your dog come in and we will remove the tick safely.”

Oz says there is often confusion among dog owners that tick prevention also prevents Lyme disease, but he says that is not the case.

This is because most of the tick medications work by killing the tick after it drinks the blood. This process still leaves the dog vulnerable to Lyme disease.

“For the tick to reach the blood vessel and grow it has to put saliva in the dog and burrow a hole to reach a blood vessel. If that tick has Lyme disease, the saliva will contain the disease. Not all ticks have it, but it is out there,” notes Oz.

He says Lyme disease is hard to diagnose and expensive to treat so they recommend dogs get vaccinated against Lyme disease.

The most common tick in the Okanagan is the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick (pictured on the left).

According to the Ministry of Agriculture this tick lives in the interior dry belt from the United States border north as far as Williams Lake and eastward into Alberta. It is not found west of the Coast Range mountains.

They says about 20 species of tick live in the province in varying shapes, colours and sizes.

New rules for party buses

New rules have been rolled out for a B.C. industry that's supposed to be about good times but has come under scrutiny after the deaths of at least two teens.

The Ministry of Transportation says operators of stretch SUVs, limo-buses and party buses with perimeter seating used to receive a licence that allowed them to set rates, work anywhere in B.C. and add vehicles to their fleets.

But now it says an independent tribunal known as the Passenger Transportation Board will approve each vehicle for a special authorization licence and will regulate rates, areas of operation and fleet size.

Attorney General Suzanne Anton says the change will allow the government to better regulate the industry and ensure operators are following their licence terms.

New Democrat George Heyman says the change is a first step in protecting young people, referring to the deaths of 16-year-olds Shannon Raymond and Ernest Azoadam.

Raymond and Azoadam died in 2008 and 2013, respectively, in incidents related to party buses in the Metro Vancouver communities of Maple Ridge and Surrey.

Azoadam collapsed and died on a party bus and while police said there was evidence of alcohol on the bus, the B.C. Coroner's Service concluded neither drugs nor alcohol caused his death.

Raymond died of an overdose of ecstasy taken while she and friends were celebrating a birthday on a party bus.

The Canadian Press

Tragedy strikes twice

When 20-year-old Keziah Johnston of Coquitlam, B.C., died suddenly earlier this month, her sister Shiloh wrote an email to their mother about cherishing every moment.

Just 10 days later, 22-year-old Shiloh died after being struck by a car that plowed into a power pole where she was standing in Burnaby.

Family and friends of the two sisters are in shock that the inseparable pair died just days apart.

Their cousin Janica Lucas says the sisters were roommates, and Shiloh was devastated when Keziah died on Feb. 7 from undisclosed causes.

She says Shiloh took a week off to grieve and returned to work last week when she was struck by a car that skidded across two lanes of traffic.

A celebration of Keziah's life on Mar. 7, which Shiloh had been helping to plan, will now be a joint ceremony for the two sisters.

The Canadian Press

Family fears Schoenborn release

The family of three murdered B.C. children whose father stabbed and smothered them fears he will unleash harm in the community if he is granted limited release, despite his psychiatrist's assurances.

An annual B.C. Review Board hearing has resumed for Allan Schoenborn, who was found guilty but not criminally responsible for killing his children in their Merritt home in April 2008.

Schoenborn's psychiatrist is recommending supervised outings into the community from the forensic hospital in Coquitlam, east of Vancouver, where he lives in custody.

But Stacy Galt, the cousin of the children's mother Darcie Clarke, says she believes Schoenborn's doctors are working hard to paint him as low-risk.

She says evidence has proven Schoenborn is violent and believes that if he is given escorted freedom he will escape and go after his children's mother.

The Crown is also arguing Schoenborn shouldn't be released, in part because he has refused to take any programming outside of anger-management therapy and chaplain visits while incarcerated.

The Canadian Press

Family fights for custody

The brother of a woman killed last year says he and his wife are struggling to gain custody of his sister's three children in foster care.

Angila Wilson was found dead in her Clearwater, B.C., home in April 2014 and her common-law spouse Iain Scott has since been charged with her murder.

Frank Wilson, who lives in Hope, says he promised his sister before she died that he would take care of her kids — ranging in age from three to seven — if anything ever happened to her.

But he and his wife say they haven't been able to gain custody, because the Ministry of Children and Family Development won't transfer the file to Hope from Clearwater.

A spokesperson for the ministry called the situation tragic and difficult but would not comment on the specifics of individual cases.

NDP spokesman for children and family development Doug Donaldson is calling on the Liberal government to immediately place the children in permanent care with the family.

The Canadian Press

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