West Kelowna  

Who wants 2nd crossing?

Residents of West Kelowna are more anxious than those in Kelowna for a second crossing of Okanagan Lake.

That's one of several findings the Ministry of Transportation is sharing during three open houses on traffic issues facing the region.

The first was held in Lake Country Monday evening with subsequent sessions Tuesday at the Ramada Hotel in Kelowna and Wednesday at the Westbank Lions Hall. Both run from 3:30 to 7 p.m.

Since the planning study began two years ago, it has been exploring options for the Highway 97 corridor that improve safety and traffic flow, include existing corridor improvements and alternate alignments, and identify potential locations for a second lake crossing.

The idea of a second bridge was raised by former premier Bill Bennett when opening the current bridge that bares his name.

The latest survey information being shared by the ministry states those in favour of a second crossing would prefer to see it to the north of the existing bridge, but adds: "West Kelowna respondents appeared to place a higher priority on a second crossing than did Kelowna respondents."

In addressing future congestion, the survey says some respondents favoured overpasses to replace signals.

Several options have been explored, including removal of the Westbank town centre couplet in favour of a single, four-lane highway along what is now Dobbin Road.

An alternate route bypassing Highway 97 and going through Smith Creek, Shannon Lake and Rose Valley is also being explored, as are interchanges or partial interchanges at Westlake, Bartley and Butt Roads and Daimler Drive.

Through Kelowna, options include interchanges at Gordon, Dilworth and John Hindle drives, Highway 33 and at McCurdy and Sexsmith roads and Airport Way.

Elevated expressways above the current highway and median express lanes are also being explored.

The area for a second crossing has been narrowed to:

  • West Side - south of Old Ferry Wharf Road to south of Bear Creek Provincial Park.
  • East Side - south of Poplar Point to south of Manhattan Point.
  • Existing Location - expansion of capacity.


West Kelowna teen missing

West Kelowna RCMP are asking for help finding a missing teenager.

Payton Thornton, 16, was last heard from by his family on March 13. He was reported missing to police on March 24.

"There is nothing to indicate foul play at this time and police believe he is either in West Kelowna or Kelowna," said West Kelowna RCMP.

"Since Payton’s disappearance, police have followed up on several leads. However, he remains missing. Police are concerned for Payton’s health and well-being as his family reports that it is out of character for him to be out of contact for this long."


Thornton is 5-foot-7, 150 pounds, with blue eyes. 

Anyone with information about Payton's whereabouts is asked to contact their local police, or remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, leaving a tip online at crimestoppers.net or by texting your tip to CRIMES (274637) ktown.

Special gold for Canada

Heading into the 2017 Special Olympics World Games in Austria, Francis Stanley had two goals: "To eat some nice breakfasts and to have an awesome race.”

Francis, a 19-year-old with autism, entered his first World Games as a Nordic skier for Team Canada this month, starting last week with a 10-kilometre race, which he finished in sixth place. His mother Annabel Stanley says that was an accomplishment, competing in the most athletic division for men.

"(That) is pretty awesome because he was skiing against some amazing Russians," Annabel said. "He did really well, there."

But Francis's real glory came on Friday – the last day of the games, with the 2.5-kilometre classical race. This weekend, Francis brought a gold medal home with him.

Annabel, who described Francis as "semi-non-verbal," told Castanet that particular day had been tough conditions for skiing.

"It was pretty wet. They were shipping snow in every day just to try to keep them on snow," she said. "He just raced out of his skin on the 2.5, and he came in at eight minutes zero seconds and point-eight of a second."

That result was a full 32-second lead on second-place Intars Morozs of Latvia and over 49 seconds ahead of Oskar Gyllenbaga of Sweden in third.

"You should have seen the size of his smile when he got that gold," Annabel said, adding that she, too, is "absolutely overjoyed." 

"There's some incredible other skiers, other sportspeople out there, not all of them will come home with a medal, so just being part of it is an incredible experience, but somehow just the icing on the cake was when he did get his gold medal, he's got a big smile on his face."

For Francis, being part of the Special Olympics has helped him to become more communicative and more social, and each step upwards in the competition has also been a step forward personally.

"I did talk to him during the games at one stage, and I said ... 'Did you race, today?' And he said, 'No, I'm supporting Team Canada, today,'" Annabel said. "Two, three years ago, he would have said, 'No, this is boring.' So, he's learned to communicate, he's learned to create friendships."

Heading to the worlds, according to Annabel, has provided Francis with confidence to be more independent, which meant a bittersweet decision heading to Austria.

"He didn't want his mom and dad to go out, even as spectators. He wanted to do this on his own," Annabel said. "It's given him his independence, which is amazing. Give them health, give them independence, and this is all you could ever want – all you could ever want for your child."

House fire suspicious

UPDATE: 3:11 p.m.

A fire on Peak Point Drive in West Kelowna has been deemed suspicious by RCMP, and an arson investigation is underway.

West Kelowna RCMP's arson investigator and the forensic identification section are working with the West Kelowna Fire Department to find the cause of the fire.

Police say the blaze appears to have been a targeted incident following an initial investigation.

People with information on the incident are asked to contact the West Kelowna RCMP at 250-768-2880. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).

UPDATE: 1:30 p.m.

West Kelowna Fire Rescue said there was fire and heavy smoke showing at the front of a residence on Peak Point Drive when crews arrived at 2 a.m. on Sunday.

Assistant Fire Chief Darren Lee said there were no residents at home at the time of the incident and no injuries were reported among civilians and responders.

“The majority of fire damage was contained to the kitchen and great room, but smoke damage extended throughout the residence,” said Lee.

BC Hydro and Fortis Gas were on scene to support. A total of four engines and 18 firefighters fought the blaze.

The cause of the fire is still unknown.

The RCMP are also investigating the incident.

UPDATE: 12:30 p.m.

A neighbour on Peak Point Drive said he could smell smoke around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday coming from a house on their street.

When he approached the house, firefighters were spraying the home and had most of the fire extinguished.

“It’s been a notoriously challenging house,” said the neighbour.

Despite multiple calls to fire departments, no further information has been released.

UPDATED: 10 a.m.

At least three police vehicles remained at the scene of a house fire that broke out sometime after 2 a.m. Sunday morning. 

Officers were seen going door-to-door, talking to neighbours about the incident.

The residence on Peak Point Drive in West Kelowna was cordoned off and the charred front door hung open.

There appeared to be serious damage done to the house, according to a Castanet reporter at the scene.

No one was inside the house during the blaze, police said.

A fire investigator is expected to look for the cause of the blaze.

RCMP officers have returned to the scene of what they've termed "an incident" at a residence in West Kelowna early Sunday morning.

According to one witness, there was a fire at a house at the end of Peak Point Drive.

At least ten fire trucks and other emergency vehicles responded around 2:30 a.m., the witness said.

However, despite repeated calls to the West Kelowna fire department, no information has been released although one spokesperson said a press release would be issued.

Castanet will provide more details as they become available.

$1M local lotto winner

A West Kelowna man says the feeling of being a millionaire is still sinking in.

Werner Weiss said he was ecstatic when he thought he had won $10,000.

“I had to count the zeros a few times to believe my eyes,” said Weiss. “Even now, it has to sink in a bit."

Weiss won the seven-figure Maxmillions prize on the Jan. 27 Lotto Max draw.

“This win means a lot... I think I’ll put some money towards my retirement and help people when I can.” 

The winning ticket was purchased at Sheffield’s Express in Orchard Park Shopping Centre. 

Behind bars for bridge chaos

The second of two men who fled from police in Penticton, prompting an arrest at gunpoint on Kelowna's William R. Bennett bridge, will spend an additional 75 days in jail.

Michael Dennison, 25, pleaded guilty in Kelowna court Thursday to dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, and breach of probation, after he and 33-year-old Ryan Regan sped away from a police cruiser in Penticton and drove north.

Police in West Kelowna attempted to stop the car on Highway 97, near Gorman Bros. Mill, but were unsuccessful. Officers eventually nabbed the men at gunpoint on the bridge, halting traffic for almost two hours. Several cars, including a police cruiser, were smashed during the arrest.

A Kelowna man, who was travelling in Thailand at the time of the incident, said the Oldsmobile the two men fled in was his, and had been stolen from his property the previous weekend.

Dennison was also facing charges of possession of stolen property under $5,000 and flight from police, but those charges were dropped. He was given six months for dangerous driving, but after credit for time served, he will remain in jail for 75 more days.

Additionally, he was given 30 days jail for breach of probation and one day for driving while disqualified, but those sentences will be served concurrently. He was also given a year of probation, a two-year driving prohibition and a $500 fine.

Dennison had recently been released from jail prior to January's incident, after serving 102 days for theft of a vehicle and dangerous operation of vehicle. He was on probation and a driving prohibition when he was arrested.

Regan, Dennison's co-accused, pleaded guilty to dangerous operation of a vehicle, flight from police and assault with a weapon last Thursday. Sentencing is expected in May.

Space heater sparks fire

A short circuit in a space heater sparked a house fire overnight in West Kelowna.

Firefighters responded to the blaze about 1:45 a.m. this morning at a home on the 1400 block of West Kelowna Road.

Flames from the heater spread to nearby furniture, and smoke was billowing from the front of the two-storey home. Smoke detectors alerted residents to the fire, and they had successfully knocked down the flames with fire extinguishers when fire crews arrived, assistant fire chief Darren Lee said.

Firefighters removed several pieces of burned furniture, but damage to the home was limited mostly to smoke.

Two residents were placed in the care of Emergency Support Services overnight, and fire investigators are expected to return to the home this morning.

While the residents were able to suppress the fire, WKFR reminds anyone using a fire extinguisher that ensuring your own safety takes precedence over trying to save property.  

Following a similar fire in December 2016, the department alerted the National Fire Protection Association and B.C.'s fire commissioner to the following stats:

  • Heating equipment fires accounted for 16 per cent of all reported home fires in 2009-2013 (second behind cooking) and 19 per cent of home fire deaths (second behind smoking materials).
  • Space heaters are involved in two of every five of home heating fires and accounting for 84 per cent of associated deaths.
  • The leading factor contributing to home heating fire deaths (56 per cent) was heating equipment too close to furniture, clothing or bedding.

Truth about homeless

The number of homeless people living in West Kelowna is increasing and a church wants to make sure people know the truth about those people.

Parks and fleet supervisor for the City of West Kelowna said earlier this month that a number of parks in the community have been affected by broken glass, intentional damage, public defecation, urination, graffiti, camp fires and litter.

Just a few metres down from the Emmanuel Church there are at least five people who have taken shelter in the park and set up a community of tents. Jeff Bjorgan, lead pastor at Emmanuel Church said homeless people have been living in that area for years.

Sean Airth is the manager of the cold shelter program at the church and said the people that come to them are hard working and many have jobs in society.

“Our guests and the homeless community in general are very hard working, very resilient people – and I would like people to know that,” he said.

The shelter had to bump its occupancy from 10 to 15 this year, after the number of people that were showing up for their services increased.

“We were having to turn people away quite frequently which is a terribly heartbreaking thing to have to do,” he said.

Individuals who want to stay at the shelter need to arrive by 7 p.m. and respect the rules of the program.

They are then provided with a shower, a meal in the evening, laundry, a safe spot to store belongings, breakfast and a bag of lunch in the morning.  

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in homelessness, there is a housing crisis in West Kelowna and in Central Okanagan,” he said. “Vacancy rates are extremely low and if you add onto that maybe the person has developmental disabilities, maybe physical disabilities, maybe they are elderly, maybe they have pets – it becomes very hard to find a place around here.”

In the report, it stated there are unfortunate spinoffs from the Emmanuel Assembly Church’s honourable humanitarian efforts to better our community.

City staff are currently investigating solutions.

“From the people I know here I can say our guests are very kind people, respectful, I can think of five of them who leave here and go right to their jobs first thing in the morning. Some of our other guests have developmental disabilities and some of our guests here are elderly,” he said.

Airth said he believes the shelter is part of the solution and does help people. The church is planning on speaking to city council about their report on March 28 at 8 p.m.

“I don’t think we are doing enough,” said Airth. “I’d like to do more.”

Search for crash driver

UPDATE: Monday, March 20, 12:30 p.m.

An official from the crash scene says the driver was never missing, but was instead taken to hospital by paramedics after the crash.

UPDATE: Sunday, March 19, 2:45 p.m.

West Kelowna RCMP are searching for a driver who crashed a vehicle on Highway 97 near Nancee Way Overpass around 2 p.m. Sunday.

Highway traffic was tied up by the crash, the second of the day. 

The northbound vehicle took out a sign as it crashed into the median on the highway.

Police, an ambulance and a fire crew attended but the driver is reported to have left the scene.

Officers have been seen searching ditches and nearby trees.

One northbound lane was closed due to the crash.

Around 11 a.m., a three-vehicle crash on Highway 97 at Daimler Drive shut down a northbound lane on the highway.

Crash on Hwy 97

At least two vehicles were involved in a smash up on Highway 97 at Daimler Drive in West Kelowna around 11 a.m. on Sunday.

A West Kelowna fire department crew extracted at least one person from a pickup using the jaws of life.

It's reported that only one lane northbound is currently open.

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