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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Bernhardt’s freshly planted strawberries. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Hoping for a bumper crop of strawberries

Because our new plot gets a lot of sun, maybe strawberries won’t become consumed by wood bugs

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson Column: Newton’s first law of motion

I could have sworn I told them to help each other get unbuckled and to come inside.

Commercial property owners in Duncan will have an opportunity to beef up their security in 2021 with matching grants from the municipality. (File photo)
City of Duncan to help commercial properties increase security

Municipality to set up matching grant opportunities

John and Jeri Wyatt hope the upcoming North Cowichan public hearing will move things along toward exclusion of the Chemainus River Campground from the Agricultural Land Reserve. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Input sought on Chemainus campground ALR exclusion at public hearing

Matter back on the agenda after a late reprieve in 2019 for Chemainus River Campground owners

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read