Top stories of 2012 in Kelowna

A wildfire which destroyed homes and forced the evacuation of hundreds,  plane crashes which claimed the lives of five people, flooding and a Hells Angels clubhouse raid were among the top stories in Kelowna in 2012.

The Trepanier fire was reported at 3 p.m. on the afternoon of Sept. 9 near the Okanagan Connector just outside of Peachland.

It sparked a night filled with traffic jams, smoke, flames and fear as high winds forced the fire to grow quickly to more than 200 hectares in size.

Within several hours at least 1,550 people were forced to evacuate and emergency reception centres were opened in the districts of West Kelowna and Summerland. Overnight, four houses were lost and other agricultural and residential properties were affected.

The fire elicited a huge response including 70 BC Wildfire Management firefighters ,17 structural fire apparatus,  six helicopters and four water tenders. By late afternoon the next day the fire was 50 percent contained and residents began returning to their homes.

The last 234 returned home on Sept. 12.

The crash of a Piper Comanche aircraft near Brenda Mines in mid-August claimed the lives of two people, Lauren Sewell, 24, of Surrey and Dallas Smith, 30.
The small aircraft was traveling from Penticton to Boundary Bay when it went down about 30 kilometres from Kelowna.

Smith died at the scene, the other three on board were rushed to hospital in critical condition. Sewell  later died.

In May, three people died in a float plane crash. also near Brenda Mines.

The plane was returning to Pitt Meadows after a flight to Kelowna. The pilot and owner of the plane was identified as Colin Moyes,  52.

His passengers,  Peter Keate, 81, and Inez Keate, 79,  also died as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.

A wild police chase down Westside Road and the raid of the Kelowna Hells Angels clubhouse made headlines in 2012.

The raid was connected to a series of simultaneous raids held throughout the province and involved an international coalition of police officers.

At a press conference, police officers announced that senior members of the Hells Angels were facing charges for conspiracy to import and traffic 500 kg of cocaine.

The investigation, dubbed E-PREDICATE, lasted more than 20 months and was helped by contributions from RCMP detachments and specialized units throughout the Southeast District, US  law enforcement agencies, Mexican Federal  Police and Panamanian authorities.

The investigation focused on allegations the marijuana was being produced to fund the importation of cocaine into Canada.

Among those arrested was David Giles, vice-president  of the Kelowna Hells Angels Chapter.

Since then, the BC director of civil forfeiture and  Canada Revenue Agency have gone after BC Hells Angels assets.

In late July, a wild police chase, in which RCMP officers reported being shot at, ensued on Westside Road.

The suspects managed to high jack three vehicles during the chase, which ended near the Swan Lake turnoff close to Vernon, after police deployed a spike belt.

Shawn Adam Wysynski, Michael Edward Ellis and Ashley Collins were arrested in the incident.

The case is still winding its way through the courts.

In June, the tiny North Okanagan community of Sicamous was hit hard by rising flood waters that forced several hundred people from their homes in surrounding areas.

A state of emergency was declared in the 2 Mile area just south of Sicamous and Highway 97 was closed in both directions at the 2 Mile Bridge due to flooding.

The flooding not only left the community under water, it also put a damper on the summer tourist season.

Two high-profile cases played out in Kelowna courtrooms in 2012.

In November, an 18-year-old West Kelowna woman was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Ashlee Hyatt. Hyatt, 16, died after being stabbed at a Peachland house party in 2010.

Then in a surprise move in early December, RCMP Cst. Geoff Mantler pleaded guilty to assault.

Mantler was captured on video by former Castanet reporter Kelly Hayes, kicking 52-year-old Buddy Tavares in the face during a vehicle stop in January of 2011.

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