The year that was 2018

It was a busy year for the Castanet Vernon office and although we only highlighted the top ten biggest stories there were many others that stood out.

Below is a list of honourable mentions for some of our most popular and most viewed stories this year.


On Jan. 5, 2018 staff at Vernon Jubilee Hospital dealt with a gastrointestinal illness outbreak.

Castanet learned that the G.I. virus affected five patients.


A woman was rushed to hospital after she was shot in an apartment on the 3700 block of 24th Avenue of Vernon on Jan. 6, 2018.

Vernon RCMP Const. Kelly Brett said a 49-year-old woman “sustained life-threatening injuries" when she was shot shortly after 1 a.m.

The investigation into the Jan. 6 shooting lead RCMP to a home on Okanagan Indian Band territory.

On Jan. 11 a search warrant was executed at the home.

Derek Ryan Baptiste has since been charged with unlawfully discharging of a firearm, aggravated assault and use of a firearm while committing an indictable offence.

The 49-year old woman was eventually released from the hospital.


Due to snowy, slippery road conditions, January 2018 was a terrible month for vehicle crashes.

A couple of the crashes resulted in the deaths of two people.

One crash involved a semi-truck on Highway 97 A, south of Armstrong and the other crash was close by on Highway 97 A just north of Vernon.

The crashes occurred only three days apart.


It was also a popular month for celebrity sightings at SilverStar Mountain Resort.

Two of the most popular celebrities who are often spotted at the Star are Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman.

The pair dines at many of the mountain restaurants and they apparently have a winter vacation home at the Star.


On Jan. 10, 2018 the longtime owner of the Vernon Vipers passed away.

The family of Duncan Wray issued a statement about his passing on Jan. 11.

“Duncan was a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend to those that knew him. His loss leaves a huge hole in our hearts and he will be greatly missed.

“The unexpected news has come as a devastating blow and although the family is grateful for all the kind messages of sympathy, we ask that we can be left to grieve in private at this very difficult and sad time for us.”


A Vernon teen fought for her.  

Emily Loewen, 16, was rushed to Vernon Jubilee Hospital on Dec. 6, 2017 for what felt like a serious flu.

The young woman was flown to Vancouver General Hospital where she spent months recovering.

“I was flown down to VGH where they put a bolt in my head to monitor my brain,” she said on Facebook. “The swelling was so bad I was minutes away from death."

It wasn’t until Dec. 21, 2017 that Loewen opened her eyes again.


True Leaf officially announced when it would break ground on a massive North Okanagan cannabis facility.

March 2, 2018 marked the start of construction on True Leaf Campus, a 25,000-square-foot medicinal cannabis grow facility in Lumby.


A collision east of Vernon on Highway 6 has claimed the life of a young woman on Feb. 5, 2018.

The crash happened at the junction of the King Edward Forest Service Road.

Vernon RCMP Const. Kelly Brett says the woman was driving a minivan when it appears she lost control and collided with a pickup truck.

Road conditions were extremely poor at the time of the tragic incident.


A man was pronounced dead after being airlifted from the backcountry east of Cherryville on Feb. 26, 2018. He was found in a tree well.  

The 51-year-old Vancouver man died near Keefer Lake Lodge.

The incident was initially reported as an avalanche.

“BC Ambulance Service attended the scene and air-lifted the male to the nearest medical facility, however, resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful and the male did not survive the injuries sustained,” said Brett.



Seven firefighters from the Okanagan Indian Band Fire Department walked off the job in early March 2018.

They handed in their personal protective equipment and resigned their positions.

The group said they no longer feel safe doing their job.

There were times, they claim, they feared for their lives, often due to the fact they felt there were not properly trained.

The Okanagan Indian Band did provide Castanet a statement on the allegations.


One man died after a snowmobiling incident in the backcountry area of Mabel Lake.

On March 4, the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP received an emergency spot activation near Lumby for Travis Squair, 30, who reportedly lost control of his snowmobile.

Squair is believed to be the nephew of prominent local businessman David Chambers, whose wife Gloria Miller died while scuba diving in Mexico in February 2018.


In March 2018 a North Okanagan mother was distraught after hearing her six-year-old daughter was sexually abused at her elementary school for several months.

The woman, whose name is not being used to protect the identity of her child, said her daughter was sexually abused by a nine-year-old girl for three months and North Okanagan-Shuswap District 83 officials are not doing enough to protect her child.

The superintendent of North Okanagan-Shuswap School District 83, Peter Jory, issued a statement regarding allegations of sexual abuse of an elementary student.

He stated they were unable to respond specifically to the incident at hand.


Police an Armstrong woman in connection with a string of suspicious fires in Armstrong in the middle of March 2018.

Just a week prior to her arrest fire crews responded to three fires in two nights, all along Warner Ave.

On May 22, 2018, Colette Leneveu, 60, was released on bail.

Between March 8 and March 12, six suspicious fires were set in the Armstrong area, all causing varying levels of damage.'



Throughout April 2018 some Vernon residents caught a break at the gas pumps.

At one point gas got as low as 112.9 at some stations throughout town.

Multiple times throughout the month GasBuddy.com said Vernon had the lowest gas prices in the province.


On April 10, 2018, a landslide severely damaged a home on Eastside Road in Vernon.

The City of Vernon released the finding from a geotechnical engineering report.

"From his perspective, it was likely a combination of groundwater and surface water that saturated the soil," said James Rice, manager of public works with the City of Vernon.

Larry Gilchuck and his wife were asleep when the wall of mud, rock and trees came barrelling towards their home early in the morning.

The slide destroyed a section of their 20-foot retaining wall, buried his full-size GMC work truck and trailer, dented a shipping container, and tossed a car into their home, just metres from where they were sleeping.


Jimmy Prentice stood on the side of a busy street at the north end of Vernon holding a sign that read, "tradesman looking for a job."

The heavy-duty industrial tradesman has not been able to find steady work for a year and a half. As a result, he was homeless.

After Castanet did a story with Prentice he received an abundance of job offers.

He decided to accept a job at a fishing lodge on Haida Gwaii, also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands.


On May 7 a man was shot in Vernon across from Seaton in the 2700 block of 43 Avenue.

As a result of the gunshot, the 24-year-old man suffered life-threatening injuries.

The shooter was seen leaving the scene.

The same vehicle was then seen in West Kelowna at about 1:25 p.m.

Later that same day, at about 8:35 p.m., Penticton RCMP were called to a motel on Westminster Avenue after a report of a man with a gun, but he fled the scene before police arrived.

At 8:45 p.m. on the same day, Penticton RCMP responded to a report of a carjacking on Maple Street.

“Once inside the car, the male assaulted the victim,” said Shoihet. “The victim was forced from the vehicle in the 900 block of Main Street, Penticton."

On May 8, the victim’s stolen vehicle was seen on a ferry nearing the Departure Bay terminal in Nanaimo.

When he drove off the ferry, officers surrounded his vehicle and the man produced what officers believed to be a firearm.

Officers fired their weapons at the man, who later succumbed to his injuries and died.


In early May both Armstrong and Lumby, property were under evacuation alerts due to flooding.

Soon after Armstrong went into a state of emergency, as well as areas of Lumby.


Angie Lohr, founder of H.O.P.E. Outreach gives Castanet an in-depth biography of her young life.

Angie spent 13 years working as a prostitute, addicted to crack and cocaine. She lived the crime-filled "street life" until she woke up one cold January morning in 2002 wanting to change; needing to change.


In the middle of May, Bob Sattler of Hi-Pro Sportswear was tired of coming to work in the morning to find trash, feces and loaded shopping carts strewn about his property. 

He dumped the contents of three shopping carts on the steps of City Hall and was given a $110 fine from bylaw.

Sattler is one many local business owners who continues to voice his concerns regarding homeless issues in Vernon. 


Matthew Foerster was resentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 17 years.

Foerster was sentenced to life in prison in 2014, three years after brutally murdering 18-year-old Taylor Van Diest in Armstrong.

Foerster was initially charged with first-degree murder but appealed that conviction and a new trial was ordered.

Instead of going through a new trial, Foerster elected to enter a guilty plea to the lesser charge of second-degree murder.


In the middle of June Vernon's SilverStar Mountain Resort received a dumping of snow, which was a huge topic of conversation throughout the community until it quickly melted.


Near the end of June, a big film announced it would be filming in the Okanagan.

"A Score to Settle" starring Nicolas Cage filmed in Kelowna and Vernon in early July.



RCMP and Vernon North Okanagan Traffic Services were on scene of a fatal crash involving a motorcycle on July 6, 2018.

Const. Kelly Brett said just before 1 p.m., emergency crews were called to a motorcycle accident in the 5300 block of Old Kamloops Road.

“The driver and single rider of the motorcycle, a 19-year-old male, has died as a result of his injuries,” said Brett.


On July 19, 2018, Vernon teacher, John Keeley was reported missing out at Mabel Lake near Lumby.

Ten days later after extensive searches were conducted, Vernon RCMP said a body had been recovered.

Police said the death was not suspicious.


Near the middle of July, a Vernon teen said she was attacked while walking home in the 4400 block of 25th Street.

Courtnie Richardson was beaten so badly she had to undergo surgery to her face.

The incident was reported to police but the attackers were not believed to have been caught.


On July 25, 2018, two people narrowly avoided serious injury after a wall of mud came crashing into a pool at The Mandalay condominiums in Vernon.

It appeared a failed, or left on, irrigation system at a higher elevation may have caused the mudslide.


The main topic across the Okanagan Valley throughout the month of August was smoke-filled skies.

With thousands of wildfires burning across the province a thick haze of smoke was left over making it difficult to breathe and even harder to see just metres ahead.


A child died in a boating incident on Kalamalka Lake on Aug. 13.

The North Vancouver family were on their way to shore when the driver turned the boat and a 6-year-old fell overboard. The child was then struck by the boat and died of serious injuries.


Notorious gangster, Jody York, 43, allegedly beat a man unconscious with a golf club, according to a Vancouver Sun article written by Kim Bolan.

On Aug. 11 at about 8 a.m. Vernon North Okanagan RCMP were called to a serious assault in the 3900 block of Highway 97.

The incident is believed to have begun as a verbal argument but became physically aggressive quickly.

Both men were brought to hospital for treatment.

York was released from custody on $2,000 bail and was charged with one count of aggravated assault.


Castanet had an emotional interview with Darcy Martin, the grandmother of  Traci Genereaux whose remains were found in October 2017 on Salmon River Road.


A bug that looks like a ladybug, called Asian lady beetles were found embedded in a dogs mouth.

It turns out they are being found more and more throughout the Valley.


Vernon mayoral and council candidates prepared for the Oct. 20 municipal elections by participating in a number of events and forums throughout town.


Platinum Blonde and Loverboy played a sold-out concert at Vernon's Kal Tire Place.



On Oct. 20 Vernon residents voted in new mayor Victor Cumming.

The previous mayor Akbul Mund was voted in as a council member along with incumbent councillors Brian Quiring, Scott Anderson and Dalvir Nahal.

New to sit in a council position was Kelly Fehr and Kari Gares.


Also on Oct. 20, Jon James died in a plane incident near Vernon.

The well-known musician was filming a music video when his shoot didn't open after jumping from the plane.


A terminally ill woman was held at gunpoint while two men broke into her home in Sicamous on Oct. 24.

The woman, 59, suffered a fractured nose, stating to investigators that she was held at gunpoint and kicked in the face during the ordeal.

RCMP did not release any more information.



William Schneider, 51, who murdered a 30-year-old Japanese exchange student living in Vancouver was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 14 years in the beginning on November.

North Okanagan police arrested Schneider at a homeless camp in Polson Park in Vernon.


A homeless camp on Highway just off Highway 97 and 48th Avenue, in Vernon, popped back up.

Garbage, tents and miscellaneous other trash could be seen from the highway.

The camp was later decommissioned by the Ministry of Transportation because it's considered an unsafe area to live.


Two former members of Vernon Fire Rescue fought to get their jobs back after being fired for having sex in the chief's office.

The incident was captured by a hidden surveillance camera on March 25, 2018.



Multiple vehicles were damaged, including four RCMP cruisers, when a suspect attempted to flee from police in the North Okanagan in the middle of December.

The Vernon North Okanagan RCMP said the incident occurred after an alleged armed robbery took place in Salmon Arm.

The investigation into the robbery led Enderby officers to engage with a suspect vehicle that was seen heading south from Salmon Arm.

One man was taken into the custody.


Vernon's top cop asked the city to throw its support behind a pilot project aimed at combating at the worsening opioid crisis. 

Insp. Shawna Baher roll out the details of the "Opioid Emergency Response Centre Pilot" at the city council meeting Dec. 10. 

The pilot project being proposed can be broken down into the stages: training, implementation and reporting.   


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