Victim 'kind, caring man'

Teresa Bartz can't believe anyone would want to hurt her brother.

But, on Wednesday, Willie Bartz was found dead in his apartment at Sun Dance Suites.

Police are calling the death suspicious.

“Willie was a very kind person, dearly loved. He never met a stranger. He made friends where ever he went,” said Teresa who, along with her father, Zeke, spoke to Castanet about their loss.

Willie, 50, had lived in Vernon for several years, but it was 27 years ago when his life took a significant turn.

“He was run over by a car in 1989, which gave him brain damage and physical damage to his left side,” said Zeke. “They didn't expect him to live, but he did. He had a really rough time throughout his life. He walked like he was drunk and he was even thrown in jail for it until they (police) realized he was telling them the truth. It was pretty sad. He had a very sad life, but he was loved by everybody he met.”

Tributes have poured in for Willie, who volunteered at the Upper Room Mission and Salvation Army.

Teresa said the accident “affected him like a stroke, and his short-term memory was really bad. Sometimes, you would hear the same joke one or 20 times.

“Even after the accident (he) was very cheerful. He just bounced back. You couldn't keep him down. He was in the hospital for a year after his accident. He was in a coma for three months.”

Because of the accident, Willie was unable to work and couldn't afford luxuries many take for granted, like a phone. So, when Zeke had heart surgery last year, Teresa took to local social media to see if she could locate her brother.

“The response was amazing,” she said. “Everybody was, 'I know Will.' It was amazing how many people knew my brother.”

RCMP have not issued an update on the death.


Launches to open to boaters

Get ready for those motor boats on local lakes now that flood water has receded. 

The District of Coldstream has announced that its Kalavista boat launch on Kalamalka Lake is to open tomorrow.

Paddlewheel Park boat launch on Okanagan Lake also opens Friday.  

Both Coldstream and the North Okanagan Regional District are warning boaters to be careful on the water.

“Boaters, please make no wake to minimize damage to the shoreline and private infrastructure from wave and wash action. Natural debris floating in the lake continues to pose a safety concern,” said a district press release.

Two other Coldstream boat launches remain shut.

The district said the WestKal launch has signficant structural damage that needs to be repaired and will remain closed for the forseeable future.

Kinloch launch remains closed for minor repairs to ensure the safety of the users, said the release.

“The district will strive to get Kinloch open as quickly as possible.”

For boaters planning to use Kalavista, there is a parking fee at the lot and car-topper parking passes are required.

More information can be found online or call 250-545-5304 or email the district.

The Paddlewheel Park boat launch will open its gates at 8 a.m. tomorrow and regular operating hours will be in effect. The launch is typically busiest between 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. so launching outside of those hours may result in a reduced wait time.

Boaters are being cautioned to watch for debris in the water as a result of the recent flood and to reduce speeds near shore lines as water levels remain high.

"We recognize people feel summer is passing by and want to get out onto the lake," said David Sewell, chief administrative officer for the North Okanagan Regional District.

Firefighters host BBQ

As if rushing out to raging fires was not enough for the community, members of North Westside Fire Rescue want to make people dinner.

The volunteer firefighters will be hosting a barbecue Aug. 12 at La Casa from 2-8 p.m.

Along with the barbecue there will be entertainment, a live auction and more.

Money raised from the event goes back into the fire hall. Last year, NWFR were able to purchase more than $15,000 worth of equipment.

NWFR also offers scholarships.

The firefighters are currently looking for items for the auction.

For more information, contact Jason at 250-545-1195.


Semi hits cow, then house

The driver of a semitrailer was taken to hospital early Thursday morning after hitting a cow on Highway 97A and losing control of his vehicle that crossed three traffic lanes, went down an embankment, through one yard and then smashed into a house on Hunter Avenue in Armstrong.

“We heard a huge bang,” said Cindy Marchand, whose property was extensively damaged in the accident. “My husband thought it was thunder to begin with.”

The couple got out of bed and moved into the next room to find out what had happened.

“As we went through I thought I could see a tree limb and then I could see the semi in our backyard...It had skidded through our neighbour's yard and hit the house.”

Damage is extensive, said Marchand.

The vehicle took out the neighbour's fence, and then wiped out the Marchands' back deck, as well as gabling on the house and the fire stack. The BBQ was thrown to the back of the yard.

“We have structural damage. Our walls are cracked. There's glass everywhere. We didn't realize the extent of the damage last night because it was dark.”

Despite the damage, the couple consider themselves lucky, especially as the cab of the big rig is sitting right outside their bedroom wall where drywall has come off and the baseboards have cracked.

“I am thankful we are fine,” said Marchand. “Our neighbours are fine and the driver's going to be okay.”

Shuswap River plan sinks

An advisory committee has failed to agree on boating regulations for the Shuswap River despite lengthy talks with the help of a mediator.

The Lower Shuswap River advisory committee is made up of stakeholder groups that include motorized and non-motorized boating users and related businesses. The group is one of two that have spent months discussing how to police the Shuswap.

In a report presented to the North Okanagan Regional District board Wednesday, the group agreed a code of conduct for users of the lower Shuswap River should be enacted and enforced. The area includes Mabel lake to Baxter Bridge, Baxter Bridge to W.J. Tuey (Waterwheel) Regional Park and Waterwheel Park to Mara Lake.

The report's proposals are substantially different from a plan two years ago that would have restricted and in some cases banned motorized vessels along the Shuswap. That idea caused an uproar.

“Effective enforcement is key to backstopping public education and monitoring,” stated the report.

However, there was no agreement in boating regulations.

Instead, motorized users from the advisory committee submitted separate proposals including:

  • implementation of a 50 km/hr from Mara Lake to Mable Lake but 60 km/hr if boats are pulling water skiers
  • installation of swim barriers at the beach at Tuey Park and possibly Cook Creek and Isabel Falls swim areas
  • installation of channel control markers between the new tube hand launch and Tuey Park
  • implement of a code of conduct that would stop flooding of ballast tanks, or deploying stern wedges for the purpose of creating a larger wake; no towing of tubes in S formation, keep stereo volumes at a respectful level, staying out of tributaries and side channels; keeping motorized vessels in the main channel
  • moving Enderby boat launch upstream of Enderby Bridge and potentially opening boat launches at McGowan Road, Grindrod and upriver of Baxter Bridge

The separate submission also said, “Attempts by special interest groups to restrict or eliminate motorized use on the Shuswap River have been an overwhelming source of anxiety for motor boat groups and property owners for decades. We have put this proposal forward in an effort to bring this matter to a permanent close.”

Meanwhile tubers came in for some criticism from the whole advisory committee.

“The amount of people entering the river with inflatable devices to float down the river (tubers) are causing serious concerns among many area residents. This concern is shared by all members of the Lower Shuswap River Advisory Committee. Concerns include safety, damage to habitat, disturbance due to alcohol consumption, trespass on private property, aggressive and disrespectful behavior, garbage left behind, congestion and dangerous behaviour on the road in parking sites."

It's recommended a strategy be developed to reduce the impacts of tubing on the river and surrounding area. 

A separate advisory group looked at regulations and stewardship of the Upper Shuswap River.

Davison Orchards expands

The Davison family's furry friends have a new home.

The orchardists have expanded their highly-popular enterprise, Davison Orchards, with a new barn to host the farm animals.

“It’s been on my bucket list for over 10 years and now it is a reality, a great log barn with real character,” said Tom Davison, owner.

The barn was designed by Paul Ploegman and built by Ocana Construction. Ploegman's first project with the Davisons was in 1998 when he turned Aunty May’s original farmhouse into what is now known as the Deep Dish Cafe.

The wood used for the barn was salvaged from logs burned in the 2015 Rock Creek wildfire that destroyed 30 homes and 4,400 hectares of forest.

In order for the logs to be ready for construction they had to be milled, using a bandsaw and chainsaw.

Over 18,000 board feet of lumber was used to build the barn and all of it was salvaged; no live trees were cut down.

The animals have moved into the barn including a new goat, Cookie, who will be kidding (giving birth) within the week.

Possible homicide

UPDATE 4:13 p.m.

Vernon RCMP are investigating a possible homicide.

Wednesday morning police swarmed the Sun Dance Suites in force with more than half a dozen police vehicles on scene.

Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said an adult male was found dead inside one of the units at the Vernon apartment building.

“Investigators are treating the death as being suspicious in nature,” said Moskaluk.

At 11:30 a.m., police responded to a report of an unresponsive male in an apartment unit in the 2900 block of 43rd Avenue.

“On attendance, police confirmed that the adult male was deceased. Preliminary findings lead officers to believe that the man’s death is suspicious in nature,” said Moskaluk. “Investigators remain on scene and are conducting neighbourhood inquiries with respect to the incident.”

Anyone with information regarding this matter is asked to contact RCMP at 250-545-7171 or via Crimstoppers at 1-800-222-8477.


RCMP responded in force to the Sun Dance Suites in Vernon Wednesday morning.

Just before noon, police descended upon the trouble apartment block at the corner of 43rd Avenue and 29th Street.

At least half a dozen police vehicles were at the apartment block.

The police dog unit was seen in the building as well.

Police are not saying why they were at the apartment complex.

A neighbour said she heard lots of yelling coming from the building shortly before police arrived.

Castanet will have more information as soon as it becomes available.

The Sun Dance is no stranger to trouble.

On May 15, 2017, police were called to the apartments following a report of a stabbing.

Police said that incident sent a 45-year-old man to hospital in serious condition and they believe it was a targeted attack.

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