West Kelowna  

Expensive wheelchair stolen from man while he was fishing

Expensive wheelchair stolen

The West Kelowna RCMP is searching for an expensive wheelchair stolen from a vehicle outside Peachland. 

While a man was fishing on Sept. 9 at Headwater Lake, someone broke through a small vent window of the vehicle and stole a two-piece foldable Veloce carbon fibre wheelchair worth $7,000.

A Canon 7D camera with a 150-600 mm lens, valued at $5,000, loose change, fishing tackle and a battery charger were also stolen. 

If you can help to return this specialized ultra-light wheelchair to its rightful owner, contact West Kelowna RCMP or call Crime Stoppers and cite file number 2020-56836.


Debris hazard on William R. Bennett Bridge Friday morning

Debris strewn on bridge

Heads up if you're driving towards West Kelowna on the William R. Bennett Bridge Friday morning there appears to be a large quantity of what looks like styrofoam on the bridge just past the midpoint of the bridge.

"It's just past the middle of the bridge and you kind of come up on it without seeing it," says one eyewitness.

No word on where the debris came from but it does not appear to be impacting traffic at this time.

Indus Media Foundation producing war film, filming scenes in West Kelowna

Battle scenes filmed locally

West Kelowna will soon be transformed into a 1944 Italian battle scene, with the production of Steven Purewal’s film Promises, honouring the role of South Asian soldiers during the war.

The father-of-three and Indus Media Foundation curator previously wrote and published the graphic novel Duty Honour and Izzat, hoping to inspire greater public education about turbaned soldiers in Canadian wartime history.

"As a history buff and a community historian, I knew the Punjabi soldiers were in Flander’s Fields five months ahead of the Canadian Expedition Forces, and in fact, John McCrae wouldn’t have been able to write his poem, if not for the very community of Punjabi’s that were the first to come to Canada ... it was their brothers and uncles fighting alongside John McCrae," says Purewal.

The new film is designed to be a legacy piece, stemming from the stories of turbaned soldiers and the exhibition which accompanied his previous book, says Purewal. 

"The film is about creating a tribute piece for people, expanding the dialogue beyond classrooms and museums where we've taken our exhibits in the past," he said. 

"When we visited the Okanagan we struck up such amazing dialogues with the people in the Okanagan that the project grew bigger and bigger, because we could see that people were responding to the dialogues that these stories trigger.”

He says the project has also been well-supported by the Vernon community, especially by city councillor Dalvir Nahal who has worked on community outreach, and Vernon Tattoo organizer Norm Crerar.

It’s always interesting seeing the reaction people have to the stories, says Purewal, especially when it’s not what they expect to hear or see. 

Indus Media Foundation, a Lower Mainland-based non-profit, is funded by the Ministry of Heritage to produce educational material, but has also been supported with a $75,000 donation by a movie supplies company. 

However, despite not having Christopher Nolan's budget, Purewal hopes they can still complete a film worthy of a fully-budgeted, Hollywood production. 

"We want to create a Hollywood-esque product. That’s our aspiration. We want to put turbaned soldiers in the same frame as other soldiers. We’re used to seeing Hollywood productions - most recently, Dunkirk, 1917, they’ve been done on $100 million budgets, so we’re used to seeing soldiers in a certain way," Purewal said.

"But the soldiers we’re trying to re-insert in history, we’ve never seen them in those frames, so we do aspire to create a look and a feel that has the same type of production values. Obviously we don’t have that kind of funding, so we’re always welcoming help."

Purewal says the presence of smoke, which is coming from forest fires burning in the U.S., has made the West Kelowna location scouting process more difficult.

"It’s kind of ironic that there’s a lot of smoke in the air and we want smoke on our battlefield set, but we can’t identify the spots in the smoke, so that’s put us back another week but we’re hoping that’s going to be resolved next week. We’ll have a location and then it's bombs away, we’ve got to get on with it. We need to get some footage out in time for Remembrance Day."

They hoped to have the project completed during the summer, however, the COVID-19 shutdown delayed the process. 

Now, they're hoping to create a short tribute piece in time for Remembrance Day and aim to finish the project completely by the end of the year. 

It will be released in various formats, including online, and the possibility of public screenings will depend on what COVID-19 event restrictions will allow.

For more information, visit the website


Residents of West Kelowna have 2 weeks to pay taxes without incurring penalties

Tax penalty date nears

Time is running out for property owners in West Kelowna who have not paid municipal taxes to do so before penalties kick in.

A 10 per cent penalty will be applied to all municipal property taxes paid after Sept. 30.

Typically, penalties are slapped on all taxes not paid by the July deadline, however, in an effort to ease the burden on those hit hard by COVID-19, the penalty date was pushed back three months.

Property owners can pay their taxes in four ways:

  • Online through your financial institution. Allow three business days for processing to ensure the City of West Kelowna receives your payment by 4:30 p.m. Sept. 30.
  • By cheque or money order, using the after hours drop box next to Municipal Hall’s main entry at 2760 Cameron Road.
  • By cheque or money order through the mail.
  • In person at Municipal Hall, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.

You can also claim your homeowners grant online.

Boil water notice downgraded for Lakeview-Rose Valley System

Boil notice downgraded

The City of West Kelowna has downgraded the boil water notice for the Lakeview-Rose Valley System to a water quality advisory, effective immediately. 
The notice was required to complete a construction milestone to tie in a 600 mm main that will connect the Lakeview-Rose Valley System.

The work meant water may have entered the system without receiving chlorine disinfection and without chlorine treatment, disinfection against microorganisms (bacteria, protozoa, etc.) will not occur.

The results of final tests have confirmed the notice can now be downgraded. 

The Water Quality Advisory must remain in effect because of higher than normal turbidity remaining in the system from the seasonal breakdown of algae in the Rose Valley Reservoir. 
In the following weeks, similar tie-in work will be completed on a 750mm water main.
The Pritchard-Sunnyside System also remains on a water quality advisory.
Children, the elderly and those with weakened immunity must use water brought to a rolling boil for one minute or more or seek an alternative safe source for brushing teeth, drinking, making baby formula and ice, preparing food and beverages and washing fruits and vegetables. 
A safe source of water is available at the bulk filling station at Shannon Lake and Asquith Roads. Clean water will be free for the duration of the Water Quality Advisory but customers are asked to bring clean bottles for filling. 

To determine if you live in the Lakeview-Rose Valley or Pritchard-Sunnyside System, please see the city's Water Quality Advisory Map.

Construction of new roundabout to close intersection in Westbank

Roundabout being installed

A busy intersection on the Westbank First Nation is being closed until the end of November so much-needed improvements can take place. 

A roundabout is being installed at the Carrington and Butt Road intersection, in addition to the implementation of sidewalk and bike lanes, improved street lighting, and utility upgrades.

The closure will begin on September 18 and run until the end of November. During that time, the intersection will be closed except to local traffic. Motorists should expect delays, including single lane alternating traffic, at times. 

Development along the Carrington corridor such as the Carrington Ridge Apartments or the under-construction Marriott hotel, has increased traffic on the roadway considerably in recent years.

Life in prison, no chance of parole for 12 years, for 2018 hotel room murder

No parole for 12 years

UPDATE: 5:30 p.m.

Justice Alison Beames says her ruling of 12 years parole ineligibility was based on factors such as previous violence in the relationship, Danjou's demonstration of remorse, his age and mental state. 

"By all accounts, Rama Guaravarapu was a much loved, respected mother, family member, friend and colleague. She was a productive member of her community and society. Her death results in a great loss for many people. 

"Were it not for Mr Danjou's age, admission that he killed Ms Guaravarapu and his apparent remorse, I would have considered it fit to set a period of parole ineligibility at the higher end of the range."

Danjou is also required to undergo a forensic DNA test, is prohibited from possession of certain weapons in the 10 years following his prison release, and prohibited from contact with the victim’s daughter, the victim’s friend, and the hotel worker who walked in on the offence following a noise complaint. 

The 71-year-old appeared at his sentencing Monday via video conference from the Okanagan Correctional Centre in Oliver, and gave his own statement prior to sentencing.

"I’m very sorry for what’s happened," Danjou told the court.

"It’s ironic I had to come to jail to get peace. This incarceration of two years actually helped me immensely. I have mastered my mind - unbelievable ... I lead a life full of bliss in the jail and I am constantly in harmony with the present moment. The absolute present."

Earlier Monday, Crown lawyer Simone McCallum put forward a sentencing submission requesting a parole ineligibility period of 13 to 14 years.

Key issues in the Crown’s submission included previous violence in the deteriorating relationship between Danjou and Gauravarapu, the prolonged nature of the violent attack and Danjou’s apparent habitual alcohol use. 

“It’s no stretch to call it a brutal attack ... for a significant portion of the attack on her, Miss Gauravarapu was unable to defend herself," says McCallum. 

Defence counsel Donna Turko also presented her sentencing submissions, asking Justice Beames for a 10 year parole ineligibility period.

Turko told the court parole “is not easily granted to lifers” even after they’ve served their ineligibility period, and said given his age, Danjou would likely be institutionalized for the rest of his life. 

According to Turko, Danjou has spent the past two years seeking inner peace through Buddhism and meditation, and has had a positive impact at the OCC, where he has been known as the ‘podfather.’

“He has been a model prisoner ... he has been a calm, gentle influence because of his new philosophy on life.”

She argued a steady work history, no prior criminal record, and delusional state at the time of offence were mitigating factors for the lesser period of 10 years parole ineligibility. 

Monday's sentencing also included victim impact statements, and a character reference letter from one of Danjou's three adult daughters. 

Danjou will be transferred to Kent Institution, a maximum security facility in Agassiz, for the next two years of his sentence.

ORIGINAL: 4:30 p.m.

A Lower Mainland man has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 12 years for the murder of his partner while the pair were vacationing in West Kelowna.

Justice Alison Beames handed the sentence to Tejwant Danjou, 71, after a day-long hearing on Monday. He was found guilty of the second-degree murder of Rama Guaravarapu after a trial last month.

Danjou never denied killing Guaravarapu, going so far as to plead guilty on the first day of trial. The very next day, Danjou took back his guilty plea, after refusing to admit he had intended to kill her.

By definition, murder is homicide where the accused has the intent to kill, or knew the injuries inflicted are likely to cause death. Homicide without intent to kill is manslaughter, which the defence argued Danjou should have been convicted of. 

On the evening of July 22, 2018, Danjou repeatedly struck Rama Guaravarapu with a wine bottle inside the couple’s hotel room at the West Kelowna Best Western.

Guaravarapu, who had travelled from her home in Surrey to the Okanagan with Danjou for a weekend of wine tasting, died on the floor of the room, in a pool of blood and red wine.

The defence had argued Danjou had been suffering from a delusional disorder of the jealous type for many months leading up to the killing, convinced Guaravarapu had been cheating on him.

Court heard Danjou had previously been physically violent towards Guaravarapu. She had told her friends that Danjou had threatened to kill her in the past and Guaravarapu had expressed interest in leaving him at least six times prior to her death.

Danjou will be 83 years old when he becomes eligible for parole.

More to come...

New supportive housing plans for Westbank

Supportive housing planned

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has announced new supportive housing plans on Westbank First Nation lands. 

Through BC Housing and Turning Points Collaborative Society, the province is working to build up to 52 new homes for people experiencing homelessness.

"Housing is the foundation on which people build their lives and the importance of safe, secure housing has never been clearer," says Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. "We're working in partnership with First Nations and local governments across the province to build much needed new supportive housing, because we know it works. When people without homes are provided a place to call their own with the supports they need to succeed, everyone in the community benefits."

A rezoning application has been submitted to the Westbank First Nation for lands at 3235 Cougar Road. The application has received first reading which now provides opportunities for public consultation.

More information will be available this coming fall from BC Housing.

The supportive housing building would be operated by Turning Points Collaborative Society with staff on site 24/7 providing supports, meal programs, life and employment skills training, and health and wellness services.

"We are honoured to be able to work with BC Housing in the creation of the Cougar Road supportive housing site," says Randene Wejr, executive director of Turning Points Collaborative. "This is the start of something very special."

If the application for rezoning is approved this fall, BC Housing will update on the estimated budget with funding coming from the Supportive Housing Fund as well as proposed construction timelines. 

BC Housing would enter a sublease with the current lessee of the location. 

Freeport Industries, local modular-home builder has been chosen to lead the construction of the project.

Car caught fire off Highway 97 in West Kelowna Saturday morning

Car goes up in flames

A car was completely destroyed by fire Saturday morning in West Kelowna.

The fire occurred at about 6 a.m., on Concord Road, near the Highway 97 and Westlake Road intersection.

It's unclear what caused the early morning fire, but firefighters from West Kelowna Fire Rescue quickly arrived on scene and extinguished the blaze. 

The burning car appeared to be just off the road, surrounded by tall grass, but firefighters were able to douse the fire before it spread.

Three vehicle crash closes portion of Byland Road in West Kelowna

Crash closes road

A three vehicle crash in West Kelowna has resulted in the closure of Byland Road.

Just after 6 p.m. a van, SUV and car collided at the Byland Road and Old Okanagan Highway intersection. A Castanet reader says two tow trucks, RCMP, ambulance and fire services attended the scene.

It is believed some of the people involved sustained minor injuries. Castanet will update if more information becomes available.

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