Michael Drynock (left) and Jayson Gilbert have been charged with first degree murder in the death of Branton Regner. (RCMP handout/Facebook photos)

YEAR IN REVIEW: September 2019

Some of the highlights in September’s Williams Lake Tribunes

Big Bar slide a big engineering challenge for crews trying to move fish

Sept. 6

Experts say crews working to create a passage for migrating salmon following a rock slide on the Fraser River are dealing with some of the most difficult engineering challenges since a similar incident in the province over a century ago.

Corino Salomi, the environmental lead on the project involving provincial, federal and First Nations officials, says a slide in the Hell’s Gate area of the river during construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1914 posed similar problems to the one discovered in June near Big Bar.

He says engineers have reached out to the United States Army Corps of Engineers for advice and the army confirmed the team is “doing the right thing” in dealing with a slide that is much larger than others.

However, he says the scale of the slide that is believed to have occurred last fall requires difficult technical work in a remote location where crews must use ropes to rappel more than 100 metres down to the water’s edge.

Salomi says crews have moved and blasted rocks and created channels for fish to pass through but water levels are expected to drop and it’s too early to determine the overall impact on salmon stocks.

CRD directors look for solutions to growing rural crime trend

Sept. 18

Political leaders within the Cariboo Regional District are discussing what can be done about the growing crime trends in parts of the region.

Most recently, the communities of McLeese Lake and Lac La Hache have held meetings to discuss the problems in their areas hosted by CRD directors Steve Forseth, Area D, and Al Richmond, Area G, with another meeting scheduled in McLeese Lake this week.

“The CRD board discussed this matter at our meeting at Tatla Lake at length and we have agreed to invite the RCMP detachment commanders from Quesnel, Williams Lake and 100 Mile House to a future CRD board meeting to further understand the topic of property theft in the rural areas and formulate an action plan for lobbying both the B.C. and federal governments,” Forseth said Tuesday.

Mack wraps up shooting Portraits From A Fire

Sept. 4

After almost three weeks of continuous filming in and around the First Nations community of Tl’etinqox, the primary photography for Tsilhqot’in filmmaker Trevor Mack’s first feature-length movie is complete.

When the Tribune caught up with Mack after the conclusion of his shoot, he was visibly tired but incredibly satisfied. This film was “monumental” for Mack and is his most ambitious, in terms of scale, to date.

This shoot was a long one, consisting of 16-hour days for three weeks for Mack, his cast and crew, along with various community members who volunteered their time and homes to the movie’s production. Now the result of all that hard work is stored on three, 20 terabyte hard drives, ready to be edited.

Titled Portraits From a Fire Mack describes it as a coming of age drama-comedy centred around an Indigenous teenager who stumbles upon a secret that unravels the story of his parents and how it affects who he is today. Set on a reserve modelled off of Mack’s home community of Tl’etinqox, he said it’s filled with endearing characters and heartfelt moments, with a heavy overarching theme of promoting dialogue within families across the country about trauma they may be going through.

‘You don’t have to do this:’ Prince George man tells black bear as it tries to drown him

Sept. 6

A 27-year-old man from Prince George is recovering at home after a black bear chased him and tried to drown him in a lake on the outskirts of the city.

Brandon Lattie says the fact that he survived a black bear attack is just starting to set in two days after the incident, which left him with scratches and puncture wounds.

“It just happened so quick. He was holding me down — I didn’t really feel anything, there was so much adrenaline — I just wanted to stay alive,” Lattie recalled Friday afternoon, still reeling from the experience.

“After the bear struck me, it was trying to hold me under water. I immediately thought for sure this is where I’m going to die.”

It was the first time Lattie and a buddy were exploring the trails around Ferguson Lake Nature Preserve, a small lake on the north eastern edge of the city, Wednesday evening when three quarters of the way through their walk they encountered the ‘huge black bear’ on the trail.

“After it tried to push me under water, I was about a foot from the surface fighting for my life basically and was able to push from the ground back for air, the bear looked startled when I turned around and looked it dead in the face. I tried talking to it at first saying that ‘you don’t have to do this.’”

Lattie was finally able to free himself from the bear and swim to shore when a woman and her dog ran toward the water, scaring the bear off.

West Fraser curtailing operations in five B.C. mills

Sept. 10

West Fraser announced Monday it will be curtailing operations at five of its B.C. sawmills and plywood operations beginning Sept. 16.

Williams Lake sawmill and plywood are both part of the announcement, as are West Fraser’s mills in 100 Mile House, Fraser Lake, Chetwynd and Quesnel sawmill and plywood, confirmed Tara Knight, communications for West Fraser.

Citing sustained weak markets, pricing in wood product markets and high cost logs, the company said it anticipates continuing ‘variable operating schedules’ until market and economic conditions improve.

The curtailments will result in an estimated decrease of production ranging from 15 to 25 per cent, the company noted in a press release.

In June West Fraser also had temporary production curtailments.

Speaking up for resource communities topic of #TheNorthMatters meeting in Williams Lake

Sept. 15

Upwards of 50 people turned out to the Pioneer Complex Sunday in Williams Lake to listen, and to lend their voice to speaking up for resource communities, workers and families in B.C.

Originating out of Kitimat in 2018, #TheNorthMatters began as a small group sitting around a table to bring people in resource communities together so they can have a voice, said Kitimat-based resident Dave Johnston, the organizer of the movement.

Johnston spoke at the information meeting alongside fellow group member Steve Simons of Vancouver Island and made it clear the movement does not intend to be partisan to any government, or political, and said it rose out of his frustration with misinformation being spread about resource communities from U.S.- and corporate-funded protesters and activists.

“This is a really good turnout,” said Johnston, who has spoken at meetings in Fort Nelson, Quesnel, Prince George, Houston and Smithers prior to coming to the lakecity. “This is obviously a really engaged community.”

Gilbert, Drynock charged with first degree murder of Branton Regner

Sept. 19

New charges of first degree murder have been levied against Jayson Gilbert and Michael Drynock, after autopsy results positively identified a body discovered in the Fraser River last month as that of missing man Branton Regner.

Williams Lake RCMP and the North District Major Crime Unit, working with the BC Coroners Service, made the announcement Thursday, confirming what many suspected following the discovery near the Sheep Creek Bridge on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, west of Williams Lake.

Regner, 34, was first reported missing following an incident on the Rudy Johnson Bridge on Friday, Aug. 9 2019, which also led to two counts of attempted murder and kidnapping being laid against Gilbert, 25, and Drynock, 23.

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 the BC Prosecution Services formally charged Gilbert and Drynock with the first degree murder of Branton Regner, said Insp. Jeff Pelley, OIC Williams Lake RCMP detachment, who along with teams of officers have been working round the clock on the Rudy Johnson Bridge case as well as the homicide of Richard ‘Savage’ Duncan who was shot in his driveway in Williams Lake Aug. 6 and died in hospital.

No one has been charged in the homicide of Duncan, 43, at this time, however, Duncan’s death and the Rudy Johnson Bridge incident are believed to be connected.

Tolko announces shift reduction at Soda Creek, Armstrong divisions

Sept. 18

Tolko will be going to a four-day work week at its Soda Creek operation in Williams Lake and at its Armstrong stud lumber operations, the company announced Wednesday.

The flexible operating footprint in both mills will see a reduction of the company’s operating stud capacity by 20 per cent.

Vice President, Solid Wood, Troy Connolly said in a press release the decision is a result of high log costs in B.C. and weak market conditions.

Fire claims two historic buildings in downtown Williams Lake

Sept. 20

Two historic buildings in downtown Williams Lake have been destroyed by a fire that broke out in the early morning Friday, Sept. 20.

Fire crews were called at about 5:30 a.m. to the location of Diamonds and Dust Entertainment Lounge on Oliver Street, which has been the location of multiple previous arson attempts in the last year.

By 6 a.m. the building was fully engulfed and the roof of the building had collapsed onto the sidewalk. A team of about 25 firefighters from the Williams Lake Fire Department battled the fire hard, hitting it with water from several fronts, in an attempt to stop the blaze from spreading.

By 9:30 a.m. flames could be seen shooting out of the roof structure at the back of the New World as a excavator arrived on scene and tore down the beloved coffee shop to save the others, which included the barber shop, a tattoo parlor, cell phone repair shop and Ming’s Palace Chinese restaurant.

The Tribune caught up with New World Coffee and Tea House owner Sue Lachance on scene, who was coming to grips with the loss.

“We’re sad, but everyone’s safe and that’s the main thing,” said Lachance, who owns the popular shop with her partner Brice O’Neill. “The fire department has been amazing. They did everything they could. They pressurized our building. It looked really positive for a bit … but unfortunately the fire breached the walls.”

The building was built in the late 1930s by the Borkowski brothers, Lachance said, noting the original building was also built on to a couple more times after that.

‘They’re hearing us now’: Cariboo leaders leave UBCM convention to cheer on rallying Cariboo loggers

Sept. 25

Crazy, chaotic — those are just a few words Williams Lake City Councillor Scott Nelson used to described the scene in downtown Vancouver Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 25 where hundreds of log trucks arrived to protest forest industry job loss.

“It’s a fantastic show. They pretty much shut down downtown Vancouver,” Nelson said in a phone intervie, the sound of logging truck horns blaring in the background.

“They showed a great force of how important rural B.C. is – they’re hearing us now.”

Convoys of logging trucks from across the province left their homes in rural B.C. in the dark Wednesday morning, some as early as 2 a.m., to all meet up at Merritt and travel together to reach their Vancouver destination.

From the Cariboo, Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb, Councillor Scott Nelson, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett and Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Willie Sellars were standing by, waiting to greet forest industry workers outside the 2019 UBCM convention.

Truckers participating in the Rally to Vancouver said they are frustrated after months of mill curtailments and closures and want their voices heard on a provincial and national level.

Loop program diverts food waste from the landfill and into the hands of those who need it most

Sept. 26

Save-On-Foods in Williams Lake can now say they are a zero food waste grocery store thanks to a new program they employed called Loop Resource, which diverts unsellable food to the local food bank and area farms.

“Nobody wants to throw out food,” said Jaime White, Loop Resource new projects director, who was in Williams Lake recently to implement the program.

He said grocery stores backed away from donating food to the needy and farms in the 1990s after being sued, but they are now finding their way back to a more sensible approach, White said, because Loop Resource shoulders the liability and streamlines the process for staff.

“We can take the pain out of it and let stores do the right thing. If this food can feed people then it should.”

White explained the food first goes to the food kitchen and food bank. Then, if it’s not suitable for human consumption, it is donated to a network of area farms to feed their animals. Quite often, farmers are so pleased with the program White said they will often re-donate an animal for food back to the food bank.

“It’s a really cool symbiosis that develops. Every single farm said they want to help.”

Tamara Robinson, director of family services and community outreach director with the Williams Lake Salvation Army, said the new stream of beautiful foods given to them by Save-On-Foods will bolster their lunch program and provide much-needed protein for the food hampers, which is accessed by about 600 families every month.

“This is just fantastic and it’s going to the families who need it the most,” Robinson said. “It just changes everything for us and our guests.”



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Williams Lake loggers Jorden Ilnicki (left) and his father Tracy Ilnicki will be a part of the growing Rally to Vancouver protest Wednesday. The truck rally will see hundreds of loggers in logging trucks headed in a convoy to Vancouver where they hope to bring attention to the needs of the struggling forest industry when Premier John Horgan speaks at the 2019 Union of BC Municipalities. Angie Mindus photo

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