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Kelowna  

Following her last steps

WARNING: Content in this story not suitable for all ages and might be disturbing to some.

Police are still actively investigating the death of a 29-year-old woman who was found floating in Okanagan Lake. 

Caitlin Midori Bradley, 29, was found floating face down in the lake at Boyce-Gyro Beach Park by a young boy on Sunday. 

Kelowna RCMP and the BC Coroners Service have been trying to piece together Bradley's whereabouts and movements before her death. 

“The investigation into the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of Caitlin Bradley remains very active and ongoing at this time,” Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey said Wednesday.

Investigators are now focusing on her whereabouts, movements, and communication between 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. 

“Any dash camera footage in the Gyro Beach area along Lakeshore Road between the same time period would also be greatly appreciated,” said O’Donaghey. 

Bradley, who went by the stage alias Megan Gunns, worked as a dancer in Vancouver at The Haney Public House and in Kelowna at Liquid Zoo and Cheetahs Show Lounge.

Police say Bradley was from Surrey, but friends and social media indicate she lived in Kelowna. 

“She was dependable, professional, responsible and always handling herself with the utmost respect,” said Haney Public House owner Yvan Charette.
 
Friends of Bradley tell Castanet she was an amazing mother, a great friend and her death has devastated the dancer community. 

“She will be missed by many on different levels,” said Charette. “This is a shocking and sad time for us at the Haney Hotel, and her loss is a waste of a life not fully lived for many more years to come.”

Bradley’s death has still not officially been classified by police. 

Another woman was found dead in Okanagan Lake just a few weeks early, but police say the two events are not connected. Both of the sudden deaths are being investigated by RCMP and the Coroners Service. But, O’Donaghey says there is nothing at this time to indicate the public is at risk.

"It's important to remember that public safety is our priority, and the Kelowna RCMP are committed to providing any information or warnings that would prevent crime, or reduce the risks," said O'Donaghey. "That is not required as a result of these recent incidents. Kelowna is a safe community that is not defined by these two tragic loses."
 
Anyone with dash camera footage or information should call Kelowna RCMP at 250-762-3300. 

Alanna Kelly


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OC hires United Way boss

Helen Jackman is moving from the United Way to Okanagan College.

Jackman has been hired as the college’s new director of advancement and the Okanagan College Foundation’s executive director. She will be leaving her role as United Way Southern Interior BC executive director to start at the college on June 10.

“The college has a great reputation in terms of its service to the region, and I know that a major reason is the community support it has attracted to help build campuses, programs and student supports,” Jackman said in a press release. “I’m excited to be stepping into the fundraising role at this juncture as the college continues to grow.

“I’ve looked carefully at where I wanted to take my next career step. It had to be somewhere that I could devote myself to long-term and something that would allow me to contribute to building the region I’m calling home. Okanagan College offered that opportunity.”

Jackman moved to the Okanagan from the United Kingdom in 2017. Her last job in England was as CEO of the Macular Society, a medical research charity. Jackman recently joined the board of the Journey Home Society.

United Way Southern Interior BC will begin its search for Jackman's replacement immediately.



Abandoning boats not cool

What happens to old, or derelict boats once they have hit the end of their useful life?

Some end up abandoned or sunk to the bottom of a lake because owners either don't know, or don't care about available options.

Representatives of the Boating BC Association will be at the annual Kelowna Boat Show this weekend to educate boat owners about the Abandoned Boats Program.

The annual Kelowna Boat Show runs Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Kelowna Yacht Club.

"The vast majority of boaters are responsible, but not all – and we need to ensure this issue is not a recurring one," says association president Don Prittie.

"Step one is educating boat owners and ensuring they know how and where they can dispose of their vessels. To that end, our Association has also created a data base with information about where and how to dispose of a boat at the end of its life."

While abandoned and derelict boats are an eyesore, Prittie says they pose an even greater danger. He says these boats could wash ashore or sink, releasing fuels or toxins which can put marine life and habitat at risk.

There are companies in the Okanagan and Shuswap that can help with the safe disposal, transportation or recycling of old boats.

Click here for a list of options available to you.



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Aneurysm strikes on Easter

A Kelowna man is fighting for his life after an Easter weekend medical incident forced him into a medically induced coma.

Ryan Thorne was enjoying the Easter long weekend when things took a dramatic turn for the worse. Thorne was visiting family in Castlegar on Sunday, when he suffered a series of seizures. 

He was airlifted home to Kelowna, but his condition was quickly escalated once tests determined he had suffered an aneurysm/brain bleed. Thorne and his pregnant wife, Kailee, were then airlifted to Vancouver General  Hospital, where he underwent one surgery Sunday night and another Monday morning.

Doctors say Thorne suffered three aneurysms in total.

Friend Kat Boloten says Thorne is a great guy: "He just stood up and said his head hurt and then he fell down, and now they don't know if he's going to make it."

"We've played ball with them for years, and they are a great couple. Now, with them expecting their first child and now this, we really just want to try and help any way we can."

A GoFundMe page has been set up, and as of Wednesday, the goal of $20,000 had almost been met, with just under $16,000 raised so far.
 
The latest medical information has Thorne listed in stable condition and breathing on his own. The next few days will be critical to his long-term prognosis.

For now, Kailee, who is 32 weeks pregnant, is unable to work and is by her husband's side in Vancouver. "She is going to have the baby in Vancouver now, and for her and Ryan everything has changed," says Boloten.

"He's breathing on his own, but we're not really sure if he's going to recover – and if he does we don't know what that recovery will look like."



New Fringe Fest this fall

Kelowna is getting a new Fringe Festival this fall.

The festival will take place Sept. 19-22 in the heart of the city’s Cultural District, organized by the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan.

“We’re extremely excited to be bringing a true Fringe Festival to our region," says ARTSCO executive director Dustyn Baulkham. "Not only is it another performance opportunity for locals, but it brings artists who might not otherwise have visited our area to the Okanagan. We have already received applications from across Canada, and even one from as far away as South Africa. It should be an amazing few days!”

Performers will be selected by lottery, and 12 companies will perform five times.

“Because it is a lottery, you never know what you’re going to get with Fringe, and that is part of the beauty of it. It’s egalitarian and open to all."

The festival is not affiliated with a short-lived Fringe Festival that was staged in Kelowna in the 1990s.

“We hope to grow Fringe year on year. We had a strong response to our A Taste of Fringe teaser last fall, and we hope the community will really get behind Fringe and help make this exciting event as awesome as possible!” says Baulkham.



Market takes over Roxby

A portion of Kelowna's Roxby Plaza parking lot will be closed each Sunday to make way for the Rutland Community Market.

The closures take effect from 5:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. beginning this weekend and running until the end of September.

The market runs each Sunday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. in Roxby Square.

Click here for more information on the market.



Seeking 4 years for pimp

A man could be spending several years behind bars for preying on young, vulnerable women through a prostitution ring he ran in Kelowna in 2015.

Simon Rypiak, 35, pleaded guilty to five charges relating to crimes against four women last February, a month and a half before he was set to face trial in Supreme Court, and his sentencing hearing was held Tuesday.

He met the first woman, who was 18 at the time, through the Plenty of Fish online dating site in early 2015. The young woman, referred to as D due to a publication ban that protects her identity, was unemployed at the time. Financial hardship was a common thread among all of Rypiak's victims.

While D was initially reluctant to work in the sex industry, he persuaded her into it by promising her a “glamorous, wealthy lifestyle,” and she began working for him in March 2015.

As an “initiation into the prostitution business,” Rypiak convinced D to have sex with his friend for $200 in a cabin in Lumby.

From there, Rypiak determined what services D would provide to clients, and what she would charge. He required her to earn $1,000 daily. D testified she earned about $100,000 over a seven-month period, much of which went to Rypiak.

After a few months, D helped Rypiak recruit new women to work as prostitutes for him. In July 2015, he met an 18-year-old, single mother in Moose Jaw, Sask., through Plenty of Fish, and they convinced her to move to Kelowna to work for him. After two or three days, and seeing 10 to 20 clients, she moved back home.

Rypiak met another 18-year-old woman on Plenty of Fish in early 2015 and convinced her to work as a prostitute. The young woman lived in the South Okanagan and was “struggling financially.” After he convinced her to perform oral sex on his friend for $120 as an “initiation,” she called her mother and went home. She never worked for Rypiak again.

Later that summer, in August, Rypiak and D met a 19-year-old Edmonton woman who was already working as a prostitute. Rypiak flew the woman, referred to as S, back to Kelowna, and she worked as a prostitute for him until September, giving 40 per cent of what she earned to Rypiak.

During a trip to Calgary with D and S in September, Rypiak got in an “physical altercation” with D, which Crown prosecutor Patricia O'Neil said was D's “final straw.”

D reported Rypiak to Kelowna RCMP on Sept. 27, 2015, and he was arrested and charged two days later in Kelowna. S also stopped working for Rypiak after she witnessed the incident in Calgary.

D's victim impact statement was read out in court Tuesday.

“The time I spent with the accused left me in an extremely unstable state, from which I am still recovering to this day,” she wrote. “I turned to alcohol and drugs in order to escape my fear and my memories. On several occasions, I tried to take my own life. I felt dirty and damaged.”

She added the trauma she experienced with Rypiak has left her depressed and anxious, and human contact has since triggered anxiety attacks.

“Science says that after seven years all your skin cells are destroyed and replaced. I cannot wait for the day when the accused will no longer have touched my body, or any other person who laid their hands on me during that time," she wrote.

Rypiak faces four counts of procuring, or persuading, a person to provide sexual services, and one count of benefiting from sexual services. 

As a result of a plea deal agreed upon by the Crown and defence late last year, a joint sentencing submission of four years was put forward. Justice Allan Betton is expected to make a decision on sentencing Wednesday.



Dreams for Kids off in 2019

Papa John's in the Central Okanagan has ended its four-year partnership with the Sunshine Foundation of Canada.

In a news release late Tuesday afternoon, the company says the annual Papa John's Dreams for Kids Day has been cancelled this year, but will be rebranded for 2020.

"In the coming year, Papa John's plans to support the community with an event to raise funds for a yet to be chosen local charity," the release stated.

Geoff Linquist, owner of the Kelowna and West Kelowna stores, says over the next year, the company will work with its partners to pull together a new event.

"Our giving mandate has always been to have the funds directly benefit our local community and supporting Sunshine Dream programs was fitting when the DreamLift program was planned for Kelowna," said Linquist.

"We have been proud of our part in bringing individual Sunshine Dreams to local kids over the past four years and look forward to what the future holds for the event."

One of the programs, Sunshine DreamLift, provided Interior youngsters an opportunity to experience Disneyland for a day. Flights left Kelowna every two or three years.

This winter, DreamLift will depart from Vancouver, and will continue to move across the country in the years to come, Sunshine Foundation CEO Nancy Sutherland stated in the news release.

"We are excited to grant customized dreams to three children in the Okanagan Valley this year, and five more in the near future," she said.

"We appreciate the support that Papa John’s and the community has provided through the Dreams for Kids Day event and other fundraising and look forward to the community’s continued support in helping us to change lives."



Protecting at-risk species

Governments are not doing enough to protect at-risk species in the Okanagan, according to a nationwide assessment by World Wildlife Fund Canada.

Released on Earth Day, the assessment identified areas of "high priority for at-risk species, carbon sinks and future climate refuges that should be prioritized now for protection."

It stated in part that, while B.C. leads other jurisdictions in ecological representation, areas such as the Okanagan should be prioritized to safeguard wildlife now and for the future.

"The Okanagan," it states, "is home to many at-risk species, like the pallid bat and desert nightsnake, but expanding development has added even more pressure to habitats that are either inadequately or not at all protected."

The report says the primary threat to the pallid bat is the encroachment of roads, residential and agricultural development, which erodes its habitat.

It goes on to say the desert nightsnake is at imminent risk of disappearing from the Okanagan due to the same incursion from roads and development.

The WWF says it produced the assessment to identify historical gaps in essential wildlife habitat protection, and opportunities to protect areas that benefit biodiversity while slowing climate change.

Canada is warming at twice the global rate, the WWF says.



Valley flooding forecast

As spring arrives, forecasters watch the snowpack and the amount of rain to predict what the potential for flooding might be.

After a winter with below-average temperatures, Okanagan residents are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel – and it just so happens to be the sun.

The last two spring and summer seasons had their share of environmental challenges. With wet springs followed by smoky summers seemingly becoming the norm, UBC’s David Scott provides his opinion on what’s in store for 2019.

Scott is an associate professor in earth, environmental, and geographic sciences at UBC Okanagan and the Forest Renewal British Columbia Research Chair in Watershed Management.

What is the snowpack currently sitting at in the Okanagan Valley?

Right now, it’s at about 80 per cent of normal, which is pretty low and about half of what we had in last year’s record-breaking season. The first of April is usually an indication of the whole season, so we are well below average and the snowpack is already starting to disappear.

Are there risks associated with that number?

Yes, there are still some risks, but not from the snowpack alone. Two years ago, when we had large scale flooding in the Okanagan, the snowpack was around 85 per cent at this time of year. It probably went up to about 105 per cent before it started to really melt—but that on its own wasn’t what caused the flooding. The problem was the above average rainfall in May and June. So the risk we’re facing right now is that we don’t know what the weather will do or how much rain might fall.

Are snowpack and rain the two main factors that lead to flooding?

Those are the big ones, yes. The thing about the snowpack is that it gives us a predictable risk. Last year, we had a well-above-average snowpack at this time of year, we were at 150 per cent of normal. This sounds like a concerning number, but it meant that people could plan for a lot of water. They lowered the level of the lake so that when the snow melt did come, it was accommodated and we didn’t have the anticipated flooding in Kelowna.

There are other minor risks as well, for example how quickly temperatures rise as that will accelerate the melt. But I think the biggest risk is rain, because we never know how much is coming and rain accelerates melting.

In your opinion, what will the 2019 flooding season look like in the Okanagan?

Given the normal pattern of weather, I don’t think we have a big risk this year. There’s always a risk for minor flooding in some areas, but compared to previous years, I’d say we have very little to worry about.

Is there a connection between the snowpack, flooding and the forest fire season that follows it?

There is a connection—but I consider it to be a weak one. When we look at last year, we had an abnormally high snowpack, which does start us off will a fully-wetted watershed. But once that excess water drained away, we had a very dry season. We entered the forest fire season with a fully recharged soil, but it didn’t amount for much come the end of the summer. So, yes, it can give you a buffer at the beginning, but you need to have rain during the summer to keep that risk down.

David Scott is an associate professor in earth, environmental, and geographic sciences at UBC Okanagan.



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