Naked men help triathlete

With the help of plenty of liquid courage, a group of Penticton men bared it all in front of a full house at the Barking Parrot Wednesday night.

The second annual charity Men in Underwear fashion show organized by Okanoggin Barbers was raising money for local triathlete Jen Annett.

“We chose to work with Jen because she’s a local athlete, seventh in the world and the fastest woman on a bike right now,” said organizer Peter Beauchamp.

Annett is working to get to this year’s Ironman World Championships in Kona Hawaii, which requires multiple races around the globe.

Beauchamp called the costs associated with travelling for athletics are “outrageous.”

“We have this woman who is on the map and putting Penticton on the map, and we thought it was time to stand behind her and give her some support and financial help.”

The Men in Underwear fashion show started on a whim as a fundraiser for Discovery House and JCI Penticton last year. After a sold-out first year, needless to say there was an appetite for a sequel. 

“We had so many people asking us if we were going to do another one, so we had the opportunity and thought this is a great way to make a pile of cash for Jen,” Beauchamp said.

“It's a good way to bring everyone together from all walks of our community.”


Assault victim left frustrated

A Penticton man is feeling let down by the criminal justice system after the only man charged in an unprovoked swarming attack on him downtown in 2017 was acquitted last week.

Mathew Blais was walking home with a friend after leaving the casino at the Penticton Lakeside Resort on Feb. 18, 2017 around 12:30 a.m. While on Main Street near city hall, the pair was confronted by a group of youth who were trying to pick a fight.

The youth, one of which had a baton, were distressed because one of their friends recently committed suicide.

As Blais and his friend walked away from the group, towards the Mule Nightclub in the parking lot at the rear of city hall, the two men were swarmed by a larger group Blais says got out of an arriving vehicle.

Blais fell while trying to flee and was stomped and hit with blunt objects, resulting in a foot broken in four places and a fractured shoulder requiring surgery. The attackers were eventually chased away by bouncers from the Mule.

Last week, 23-year-old Zachary Eden-Burke was acquitted of assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm.

“I can’t even really be mad at the guy, because I personally couldn’t identify,” any of the attackers, Blais told Castanet Tuesday.

Judge Michelle Daneliuk found Eden-Burke not guilty due to significant inconsistencies in the testimony of the bouncers, the only two witnesses that testified they saw Eden-Burke participate in the swarming.

“When it comes down to it, the courts have to do their job and that’s all the evidence they had,” Blais said. “To be honest, they probably made the right decision, legally. Because they don’t want to send an innocent man to jail.”

He is, however, very frustrated with how his case came to be so shaky and believes the RCMP did not initially take the attack seriously.

After being briefly visited by a constable in hospital, Blais said he called the Penticton RCMP for more than two weeks in an attempt to give a statement. Eventually, his wife wheeled him in a wheelchair into the lobby of the detachment and waited for the investigating officer.

“He came out, and his first words to me were, ‘I thought it was a bar fight and I didn’t think you were that hurt.’” Blais said. “Right from the get go, it was shown that they didn’t take this as a very serious matter.”

“This wasn’t a bar fight, it was a random act,” he added.

Judge Daneliuk, indeed, ruled in her acquittal that Blais was not in a consensual fight and was the victim of a group assault. 

The trial for Eden-Burke saw Blais and the other victim testify, alongside the two bouncers, the responding officer and Eden-Burke himself.

Blais says he is having trouble understanding how police were not able to track down the numerous other witnesses that were outside the Mule at the time.

He said he forwarded contact information of at least one additional witness to RCMP, “but from what I understand, they never contacted her.”

“This could have been completely, 100 per cent different. I’m lucky I can still work,” Blais said, musing the swarming could have been close to fatal had the attackers struck six inches higher, at his head, rather then his shoulder. 

He voiced frustration with a system that makes it difficult to secure convictions for group assaults.

“If you swarm someone and cover your face or they don’t recognize you, there is no chance you are ever going to get convicted,” he said.

In an email to Castanet, Penticton RCMP commander Supt. Ted De Jager said “a full and complete investigation was conducted which resulted in the approval of charges against the only identified suspect.”

“These investigations are more about being thorough than about speed unless there is an immediate threat to public safety.  As such it is not uncommon for investigators to take the required time to gather all necessary facts and evidence.”

“In this case, that was done and presented to the court. Clearly there were other witnesses, however, none could be identified other than those that testified,” he concluded.

De Jager declined to comment on why the judge chose to not accept the testimony of the witnesses.

Spring means motorcycles

Chelsea Powrie

Warm weather has returned, and with it comes motorcycles on Okanagan roads. 

The Okanagan Motorcycle Riders Association wants drivers to keep an extra eye out, and riders to remember what it means to safely share the road. 

"We want everyone to arrive home safely, have a wonderful ride, and be careful out there because it's the beginning of the season," said Tom Cook, Okanagan Motorcycle Riders Association president. 

A sudden jump in motorcyclists on the road can lead to accidents, he said. 

"Drivers on the highway are not expecting us," Cook said. "Because our motorcycles have been stored for the last four to six months."

OMRA member Bill Duff is a former firefighter, who says wearing appropriate gear like helmets, boots and padded, reflective jackets is key for motorcyclists to stay safe on the road. 

"One of the first calls I went to as a rookie in the Calgary Fire Department was a motorcycle accident where a guy lost his foot," Duff said. "You don't dress for the ride, you dress for the crash."

The association hopes riders will act responsibly on the road.

"Don't be tailgating. People will have more respect for you when you respect the automobiles and trucks out there," Cook said. "And don't be afraid to give a wave as thank you, to people who wave you through or pull over." 

Cook has been riding motorcycles since 1965, but he never lets that get to his head. 

"I'm still learning, every time I go out there," Cook said. 

For more information on the Okanagan Motorcycle Riders Association or how to join, click here

Permanent stage off the table

Mayor John Vassilaki is no longer interested in the idea of adding a permanent stage and green room to Okanagan Lake Park.

He previously submitted a notice of motion asking the matter be debated during Tuesday’s council meeting. Vassilaki was absent from the meeting due to illness, but corporate services manager Laurie Darcus said the mayor had “changed his mind” and withdrawn the motion.

Two other motions from Couns. Campbell Watt and Jake Kimberley were endorsed by council Tuesday.

Watt’s motion will see staff look into ways to monitor speeds on local roadways. Council heard that photo-radar is currently not legal in B.C., so it’s not clear what a local government will be able to do about the issue.

Kimberley’s motion directed the city’s parks and rec committee to investigate adding security lighting and outdoor exercise equipment to Gyro Park.

Club snags big tournament

Some of Canada’s best amateur female golfers will descend on the desert this summer, as the Osoyoos Golf Club hosts the Canadian Women’s Mid-Amateur and Senior Championships.

The event Aug. 18-20 will see more than 150 players compete, something that will have a significant impact on the local economy.

“We are very excited to be conducting the Canadian Women’s Mid-Amateur & Senior Championship at one of the finest golf courses in British Columbia,” said tournament director Adam Cinel of Golf Canada.

“It’s great to be back in the Osoyoos community – our competitors are in for a phenomenal experience as we look to write the next chapter of Canadian golf history.”

Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff called the tournament “a feather in our cap” that shows the desirability of the community as a world-class destination.

“A recent study shows that in Osoyoos, a golfer visit represents approximately a $500 per day spent per couple (which) goes) into our community restaurants, shops, golf courses, hotels, campgrounds and wineries. We are looking forward to welcoming all participants and their friends and family,” said Destination Osoyoos executive director Kelley Glazer.

Competition takes place on the Park Meadows 18-hole championship course at OGC over three days. Two-time defending champion Sue Wooster of Australia is expected to return to Canada for the events.

“There are about 2,500 golf clubs in Canada and only eight national events a year. So, we feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to show off the club and the town of Osoyoos,” said OGC general manager Doug Robb.

New local drug unit coming

The Penticton RCMP will be putting some new pressure on local drug dealers this year with the launch of a new dedicated drug unit.

Dubbed the “Street Enforcement Unit,” the three-officer team will target prolific drug dealers throughout the region. Members are currently being selected for the unit, which will hit the streets in mid-April.

“We are in an opioid crisis,” said Supt. Ted De Jager during a meeting with city council Tuesday outlining the year’s priorities.

“It does require some additional focus from the police,” he said. “I’ve been very public, that it's time for us to start targeting the people that are benefiting from the misery on our streets, and that’s what the new drug section is going to be doing.”

De Jager said the local RCMP managed to take the local drug supply offline a few weeks ago, “unfortunately only a couple of days, before it's restocked.”

He said the RCMP will have a more visible presence downtown with the new joint RCMP/bylaw office to be placed inside the Blenz building at the corner of Nanaimo and Main.

“At the end of this month the shelters will be closing, so there will be an increase in activity, in the downtown core particularly,” De Jager said, adding they are gearing up to work with bylaw and local social service providers to deal with the issue until transition housing projects — like those under construction on Winnipeg Street and at the old Super 8 motel — come online.

Homeless beaten, robbed

Four people are facing charges after allegedly mugging two homeless men in Penticton.

Police began investigating the robbery and assault on March 14, learning of two victims that suffered severe injuries and had several valuables stolen.

The Penticton RCMP’s targeted enforcement unit arrested four individuals for the muggings this week.

Kevin Walter-Hughes, 50, faces several charges including assault with a weapon, aggravated assault and two counts of robbery. He is well known to police, registering at least 29 convictions.

Two counts of robbery have also been approved against 41-year-old Christina Chappell, 20-year-old Samantha Chappell and 27-year-old Kaleb Royer.    

All four accused are Penticton residents.

Walter-Hughes remains behind bars while the remaining three are out on bail.             

“Police are confident this was a targeted incident. This was a very cowardly attack on two vulnerable and defenceless individuals,” said Cst. Ryan Shedden of the TEU.

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