Lake Flashback: Seven dead in tragedy, Lake Cowichan’s own bus, and tubers hit by powerboat: plenty of news in August

Lake Flashback: Seven dead in tragedy, Lake Cowichan’s own bus, and tubers hit by powerboat: plenty of news in August

Accident kills seven handicapped campers, council calls for Lake’s own bus, tubers hit by ski boat

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

10 years ago:

On Aug. 1, 2007, the Lake Cowichan Gazette headline was “Police plan charges in lake boat accident”. The event involved a “person driving a boat that hit a tube of five youth on Cowichan Lake last Wednesday afternoon.”

Two girls, aged nine and 10, the story said, had to be taken to the hospital in Duncan, with one eventually transported to Victoria General Hospital.

As police investigated, they said the children, from out of town, were floating on the tube, when the collision occurred.

Cpl. Kurt Gottfried, the investigating officer, said the boat had been conducting water ski lessons from the Cowichan Lake Marina. He said the kids on the tube had earlier been towed behind a boat but at the time of the accident they were not being towed.

“It was pretty much in the middle of the lake when it happened,” said Gottfried, referring to a point about halfway between the marina and the opposite shore. He said the boat had a spotter on board. Alcohol was not supposed to be a factor.

25 years ago:

Lake Cowichan decided to go it alone and ask for a bus in August 1992.

According to The Lake News of Aug. 5, council voted to ask BC Transit to support a bus to serve Lake Cowichan. An invitation would then go to Areas F and I as well so that the bus line can serve the entire Lake district.

“The Village is already supporting a bus service but it can’t afford enough: the bus runs only to Duncan and back on Thursdays.

“Mayor Darling said the long delay in getting approval for a CVRD-wide service is making it likely that BC Transit will cancel the whole idea.”

He said he was still hopeful about a region-wide service eventually but councillors decided to move ahead immediately.

40 years ago:

The Aug. 3, 1977 headline in The Lake News is stark and horrifying: “7 handicapped drown as boat flips” and the story was just as grim.

“I never trusted that thing right from the start,” said Earl Gravelle, 72, caretaker of the summer camp where seven people drowned on Cowichan Lake Thursday.

He was talking about the pontoon boat that took the lives of seven handicapped campers, residents of Victoria and Duncan, who were at the camp for 10 days of outdoor activities. Gravelle, like all others at the camp that morning was stunned by the tragedy.

Despite the fact that many were speculating that the boat donated to the camp was the victim of its own design, John Baker, vice president of the board of directors for the BC Lions Society for Crippled Children, said the craft had been tested and appeared to be stable. It was donated to the camp by the Malahat Lions Club last year.

Nevertheless, Baker said the pontoon boat with an eight by 12 foot deck, powered by a 20 h.p. outboard motor, will never be used again.

“If we do any boating here again, it won’t be with that one,” said Baker in an interview shortly after the bodies of the seven were removed from the scene.

At press time for that paper, marine investigators were still trying to determine the cause of the mishap.

lexi.bainas@cowichanvalleycitizen.com