The Cowichan Valley Juvenile Precision team won gold at the 1995 Lynn Hetherington competition hosted in Lake Cowichan. Team members were Karen Ackerman, Rowanne Brocklebank, Tanya Friesen, Ashley Gaudreault, Jaclyn Johel, Charity Leiback, Meagan Leibach, Rachelle Lundstrom, Shannon MacDonald, Andre Merrick, Dana Neuffer, Shannon Saunders, Lynette Sawyer, Amanda Smith, Christine Stokes, Kristy Thompson, Kelsey Webster, Lee Webster and Michele Woywitka. (File photo)

Lake Flashback: Weir opens, vandalism committee established, coroner’s inquest

1980: Youbou mill maintenance man’s death deemed an accident

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Kevin Rothbauer 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

“The weir that regulates water flowing from Cowichan Lake into Cowichan River was put back into business April 1, with the boat lock also resuming services,” the Gazette’s Tyler Clarke wrote on April 3, 2010. “The regulation of water into Cowichan River serves to ensure that there’s enough of a reserve of water year-round for Crofton’s Catalyst Paper mill’s operations.

“The weir begins the season now with a target flow of no less than 25 cubic meters per second, moving down to 15 and then seven by the summer.

“With the snow and rain that’s fallen since resuming weir service April 1, weir operator Michelle Vessey said that in retrospect it was a bit too early.”


Ditidaht’s lone RCMP member, Const. Josh Grafton, and his German shepherd, Azar, announced that they were leaving the area for Innisfail, Alberta to receive police dog training.

“It’s been valuable with regards to a career path with a dog,” Grafton said of his time in Ditidaht, an area served by the Lake Cowichan RCMP detachment. “It’ll be one of those places that’s unique,” Grafton said. “It’s been a very positive experience out here.”

“Always by Grafton’s side, Azar has gotten all of the preliminary police dog training that’s required to get him ready for the intensive official training in Alberta, such as tracking and how to behave around others,” the Gazette said. “It would be a shame to head all the way out to Alberta with an unprepared dog and have to give up.

“This experience is to be a homecoming for Azar, who was part of the RCMP Police Dog Services in-house breeding program in Innisfail. The RCMP Puppy Program produces an average of 120 German Shepherd puppies a year from proven stock.


The firing of a cannon signaled the end of the annual Easter weekend Terry Oulton Memorial Derby & Pig Roast.

The winner for 2010 was Youbou resident Larry Williams, who managed to take in a 2.29-pounder, with Lake Cowichan resident Rick Harrison taking in a 2.28-pound fish, and Robert Gee bringing in a 1.96-pound fish.

The fishing tournament was organized in memory of avid outdoorsman and Duncan resident Terry Oulton, who died at age 24 on May 4, 2008 after crashing his quad on Mayo Road, East of Lake Cowichan.


More than 300 people bought draw tickets for a cruise to Alaska, the Caribbean or Mexico, raising $4,000 for Lake Cowichan’s Kaatza Daycare. Local parent Debbie Longbottom won the draw, which took place on March 31.

Shortly after the draw, Curves owner Chris Thompson presented a $400 cheque to the daycare, the winnings of a recent weight loss challenge against a Curves in Victoria, which the Lake Cowichan team won.

A lack of funds forced the non-profit daycare to raise fees in February, and employees saw their benefits cut. Open since 1974, the Kaatza Daycare had to close permanently in the fall of 2011.

25 years ago

Concerned residents packed the fire hall for a community meeting to discuss a wave of vandalism, the Lake News reported on April 5, 1995.

“By the end of the meeting it was decided that groups and sevice clubs should follow through with a positive commitment,” read a front-page story. “Following a challenge from Jim Cameron that action should be taken it was decided to form a committee to ensure progress.”

Sgt. Ron Merchant announced that hard drugs like heroin and cocaine were making their way into the region, while others at the meeting blamed “kids of high school age.”

“Police statistics show that this is a good place to live with low incidence of crime,” Merchant told the meeting. He pointed out that alcohol was a problem, the story said.

“Usually parents deal effectively [with] a drinking problem if it is reported to them by the police.”

40 years ago

An inquest into the 1979 death of Patrick John Kretchmer at the Youbou mill heard that the 17-year-old maintenance man “walked into a death trap without having any idea of his danger,” the Lake News wrote on April 9, 1980.

The coroner’s jury labelled the death as accidental.

Coroner W.J. Carpenter, elaborating Tuesday on a number of jury recommendations, said that the inquest held on March 31 and April 1 at Duncan found that “it all boiled down to communications.”

“It was a communications problem all the way down from management.”

The jury recommendations were “all valid recommendations, all things that should be done.”

Kretchmer died after he was crushed between two pieces of equipment.

“The coroner said…that the piece of machinery which crushed Kretchmer had been converted from manual operation to partially automatic,” the Lake News wrote.

Carpenter said that many of the men were unfamiliar with the equipment and even “treated the machinery with awe.”


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