Stolen Mazda pickup truck is hauled straight up out of the waters of Harris Creek by a Sikorsky air crane in November 2009. (Lake Cowichan Gazette)

Stolen Mazda pickup truck is hauled straight up out of the waters of Harris Creek by a Sikorsky air crane in November 2009. (Lake Cowichan Gazette)

Lake Flashback: Tragedy strikes the Lake, RCMP call in Sikorsky chopper, and thieves leave their tools behind

Three accidental deaths in one grim week, and air crane required to save fish from wrecked truck

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Lexi Bainas has been combing through old newspapers with the assistance of the Kaatza Station Museum and Archives so we can jog your memory, give you that nostalgic feeling, or just a chuckle, as we take a look at what was making headlines this week around Cowichan Lake in years gone by.

This week around the Cowichan Lake area…

10 years ago:

“Stolen truck airlifted from Harris Creek” was the headline on the front of the Lake Cowichan Gazette of Sept. 18, 2009.

Gazette editor Doug Marner managed to get out to the site in time to get a couple of stunning pictures of the event as well as the story.

Ryan Eve knew exactly when his 1992 Mazda pickup truck was stolen from his Mesachie Lake home on Forestry Road. It was at about 2:30 a.m. on Thursday.

“We could hear someone drive off with it,” said Eve. “The muffler makes enough noise that I think they just decided to gun it and take off rather than sneak away.”

Just two hours later, someone driving the Pacific Marine Circle Route reported to police that there was a truck partially submerged in Harris Creek, about 24 kilometres south of Mesachie Lake. It was Eve’s truck. No one was located with the vehicle.

Sgt. Dave Voller of the Lake Cowichan RCMP then had to make a decision. With an estimated 10,000 coho salmon and steelhead in the creek and the chances of more rain swelling the water that would then push the truck onto some rocks downstream, how was he going to get the truck out of the water without causing environmental damage? Using a tow truck to get the truck out wouldn’t likely work and time was critical.

“I didn’t want to wait because if that truck got onto the rocks there would have been all kinds of oil, gasoline, brake fluid, antifreeze and battery acid getting into the stream,” said Voller. “That just isn’t acceptable as far as I’m concerned, not with all those fish in the creek.”

He called Canadian Air-Crane Ltd. of Vancouver, which was doing some heli-logging in the area. The company would be able to help, but then the question became who would pay for it.

In the end, Voller decided to have Canadian Air-Crane help and just after 4 p.m. on Thursday a Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane, with Mark Allan and Brian Penner flying the aircraft, came to the rescue, with Penner as the pilot. Flying down through the clouds like a giant grasshopper, with the main propeller causing a hurricane force wind that makes it dangerous to stand, the huge chopper lowered its clamp and hauled the truck straight up out of the water.

25 years ago:

“Surprised thieves leave fingerprints and wrench set” says the headline on the front page of The Lake News of Nov. 16, 1994.

Homeowners on Grant’s Lake Road and Old Lake Cowichan Road may both have accidentally chased off would-be thieves, says Sgt. Ron Merchant, RCMP.

On Grant’s Lake Road, thieves broke into a house Wednesday evening between 5 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. while the homeowners were out. When they returned they thought they chased the thieves away but they didn’t go empty handed. They took a television set, VCR, and stereo. The master bedroom had been ransacked and a new pair of running shoes were taken. A microwave oven and a breadmaker were moved but not taken. From the garage, the thieves took some tools. Fingerprints are being checked.

About 1:30 a.m. Thursday a resident of Cowichan Lake Road went outside when he heard a noise. He heard a car door slam and found someone had pushed his vehicle backwards into an antique car, smashing tail lights. A new socket wrench set was found by police. It is believed to have been owned by the thieves who left it when taken by surprise. It is being checked for fingerprints, said Sgt. Merchant.

40 years ago:

The Lake News of Nov. 14, 1979 shared the stories of “a week of tragedy for Cowichan Lake” as accidents took a heavy toll on the area.

A faller, well-known and a mate of many loggers, was killed when he was struck by a falling tree. A Youbou mill worker was killed when a massive piece of equipment fell on him. And a visiting youth from California was killed by a chipper truck in Youbou.

Inquests have been announced for two of the deaths and a decision is forthcoming on the traffic fatality.

The logger who died was Sidney Crisp, 62, of Nanaimo. Crisp had been a logger in the Cowichan Lake area for many years. He was killed accidentally Nov. 6 at Caycuse when struck by a tree which apparently collapsed because of a rotten core. The tree, which was being felled by another logger dropped in a direction different from where it was being directed, apparently because of an unsound core. Coroner Robert Wilson has set the inquest for Dec. 11.

The Youbou mill tragedy occurred Nov. 10. Patrick John Kretschmer, 17, of Youbou was killed when a triple table, which weighs more than one ton, fell on him while he was performing a maintenance task at the veneer plant at Youbou.

The third person killed was Darren Robert Billa, 12, of Santa Ana, Calif. He died about 8:40 p.m. Nov. 9 when he ran into the path of a chipper truck driven by Kenneth H. Nelson of Duncan. Witnesses told police that the boy had been playing on the roadway when the accident occurred.

Just Posted

Bob Day, president of the Cowichan Lake Trail Blazers is excited by the partnership with Mosaic to open up trails in the company’s forest lands. (Citizen file)
Cowichan Lake Trail Blazers and Mosaic partner to build new trails

Non-motorized recreational trails to be built on 1,000 hectares of forest land

Madison Holman displays a cat stuffie she received from her school while awaiting surgery at BC Children’s Hospital. (Submitted)
GoFundMe set up for Duncan girl following cancer diagnosis

Madison Holman, 11, was rushed to Vancouver for emergency surgery

Capitals’ Kahlil Fontana blueliner evades Alberni Valley Bulldogs’ Ethan Hersant during second-period B.C. Hockey League Island Division action at the Alberni Valley Multiplex on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Susan Quinn/Black Press Media)
Cowichan Capitals go out with a bang

Caps finish BCHL season strong with 6-1 thumping of Clippers

The MS Society flag flies at Duncan city hall to mark MS Awareness Month. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Duncan and CVRD help mark MS Awareness Month

MS Walk scales back, but fundraisers are still vital for MS Society

“Keeping fit for Mother’s Day: Participants of Cowichan Lake Recreation’s Mother’s Day hiking event make their way down the Trans Canada Trail, Sunday, May 8. The morning event later wrapped up with snacks and prizes.” (Tyler Clarke/Lake Cowichan Gazette May 11, 2011)
Flashback: Bears, elk, salmon, candidates, and lumber graders

This week around Cowichan Lake in years gone by

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Most Read