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UPDATE: 9:18 a.m.
Thompson Rivers University officials have been in touch with the families of three members of the school’s men’s volleyball team involved in a fatal multi-vehicle collision Wednesday on McGill Road near the TRU campus.
The crash killed one of the young men and left the other two with critical injuries, according to TRU President Brett Fairbairn.
In a statement provided to Castanet Kamloops, Fairbairn said the university is in contact with the students’ families.
“It is hard to find words that express how we feel in these moments, in the face of such inexplicable tragedy,” he said.
“Our most sincere thoughts are with their families and loved ones and, on behalf of TRU, I offer our deepest condolences. We grieve with them, along with others, including their friends, classmates and professors. This is a loss for the TRU community that will be felt for a long time.”
The university is offering counselling and other supports for students, faculty and staff.
TRU is expected to cancel the volleyball games is has scheduled for this weekend at the Tournament Capital Centre.
Police are asking anyone with information about the incident to contact them at 250-828-3000.
UPDATE: 9:07 a.m.
Kamloops Mounties say five vehicles were involved in a major collision Wednesday that killed a member of Thompson Rivers University’s men’s volleyball team.
Emergency crews were called to the intersection of McGill Road and University Drive at about 3 p.m. for a report of a multi-vehicle crash.
According to police, a Dodge Ram pickup truck hit several trees along McGill Road before striking a Volkswagen Jetta that was stopped at a red light at University Drive. Investigators believe that impact created secondary collisions with four other vehicles.
Mounties said the three occupants of the Volkswagen were taken to hospital. One of them died and two others were seriously injured.
Two occupants of a Jeep were also injured, police said. In all, seven people were transported to hospital and four others were treated by crews at the scene.
“Our hearts are broken for the victims and their families involved in this terrible tragedy,” Kamloops RCMP Supt. Jeff Pelley said in a news release.
“The three young adults in the Volkswagen were all members of the community in their 20s, and the loss is sure to have far-reaching impacts as we struggle to understand what happened and advance the active investigation as a priority.”
Castanet Kamloops has asked police whether any arrests have been made in connection with the incident, or whether any criminal activity is suspected.
The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about the incident can contact police at 250-828-3000.
ORIGINAL STORY: 8:14 a.m.
A major multi-vehicle collision Wednesday afternoon near the campus of Thompson Rivers University killed a member of the school’s men’s volleyball team and landed two of his teammates with serious injuries, Castanet Kamloops has learned.
Emergency crews were called to the intersection of McGill Road and University Drive at about 3 p.m. for a report of a multi-vehicle crash. Four vehicles are believed to have been involved.
Seven people were taken to hospital — three in critical condition — and an additional four people were treated by crews at the scene.
One man died, Castanet Kamloops has confirmed, but his name has not been made public. He is a member of the TRU WolfPack men’s volleyball team. Two other members of the team are believed to have suffered serious injuries.
There has not yet been an official update on the condition of those injured.
Witnesses told Castanet Kamloops a black pickup truck appeared to be driving dangerously in the moments leading up to the collision.
Jason Chan said he was sitting down at a window seat having a meal at a ramen restaurant on McGill Road when he heard what he thought was gunshots. When he looked up, he saw a truck headed straight for him.
“Right in front of me was this huge window,” he said. “I saw this truck, it was coming at me and it hit the tree, it bent the other way.”
TRU’s volleyball teams are scheduled to play home games this weekend at the Tournament Capital Centre. Those games are expected to be cancelled.
Castanet Kamloops has asked TRU for comment on the incident.
This story will be updated when more information becomes known.
Kamloops councillors are calling foul after the province introduced new emergency management legislation without first consulting municipalities about the changes, which some local governments fear will increase their costs and responsibilities.
The Emergency and Disaster Management Act was introduced at the beginning of October and has since received three readings. It is awaiting royal assent, and while the province didn’t ask municipalities for input before the act was introduced in the legislature, local governments now have the opportunity to submit feedback.
During a council meeting last week, Will Beatty, the city’s emergency preparedness manager, provided an overview of the new legislation.
He said under the act, states of local emergency will last 14 days instead of seven, and can be extended by periods of 14 days with approval from the minister. Governments can retain powers gained by a state of local emergency during a disaster recovery period, which will last 90 days.
Beatty also noted local governments have raised concerns.
“Some of the shared concerns from the local authorities, regional districts and local First Nations was increased responsibility requirements, and expectations around preparing and responding to devastating events that are happening more frequently, and the cost implications to host communities with increased expectations on emergency programs,” Beatty said.
Coun. Mike O’Reilly noted he had a “lot of concerns” with the legislation, particularly as it concerns Kamloops’ role as a host community for evacuees displaced by natural disasters. He said Kamloops will need support from the province in order to fulfil these duties, adding government funding shouldn’t be given out based on population size.
“The amount of people that we actually host in Kamloops from natural disasters is significantly higher than most other places, I would suggest, in British Columbia,” he said.
“We are the evacuee host of Canada — and that's not a title that we want, but nonetheless, it's a lot of people that we have here. And something needs to be done, it’s not something we can bear on our shoulders.”
O’Reilly noted it’s one thing to receive compensation after events have happened, but the city also needs capital investment for facilities like an evacuee welcoming centre.
Beatty said the B.C. government is reviewing its Disaster Financial Assistance program, the framework through which it allows a host community to recover funds. He added city administration is also in discussions with the province about capital funding.
Coun. Katie Neustaeter expressed concern with volunteer fatigue, saying she’d like to know if the province has any measures in mind which could "support the human effort” assisting during disasters.
Coun. Bill Sarai asked if Beatty thinks there’s an appetite at the provincial level to hear from municipalities at this stage.
Beatty said he believes the province is open to hearing feedback and wants to understand the host community model.
"It sounds like they're hearing what we're saying when it comes to changes in Disaster Financial Assistance, capital investment,” Beatty said.
“Even little things like the extension on states of local emergency, they're listening to what member municipalities have to say — they just didn't consult properly.”
Coun. Kelly Hall wasn’t convinced, noting municipalities are being asked to provide feedback while legislation is waiting for royal assent.
“You’ll have to excuse me if I’m a little cynical with respect to them actually listening to what we’re trying to articulate to them,” Hall said.
In response to a motion put forward by Neustaeter, council voted in favour of writing a letter to relevant provincial officials and sending a copy to the Southern Interior Local Government Association, the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District — which expressed its own concerns with the legislation at a prior meeting.
The letter will outline council's concerns about the act and the province’s lack of consultation, and request local governments be allowed to see the next draft of the legislation before it moves forward.
A Kamloops man is facing a five-year prison sentence for his part in an ambush-style attack in which a man was pinned down and cut, but his role in the violent incident is still unexplained.
Jesse Shane Coueffin, 28, was convicted of aggravated assault and break and enter last year following a trial in Kamloops provincial court. He was in court on Wednesday for sentencing.
Coueffin was convicted for his part in the Jan. 24, 2021, attack, in which the victim though he would be spending time with a woman, but was instead pinned down and suffered injuries to his face and upper body — later requiring dental work to repair.
“It was two against one and the evidence is that Mr. Coueffin’s girlfriend at the time had been recruited to assist in this plan,” Crown prosecutor Leah Winters said in court.
“This was a deliberate act, Mr. Coueffin was either using the knife himself or he was assisting the other party.”
Court heard that a third party who was involved hasn’t been charged and that a knife the victim says was used in the assault was never found.
Winters said brass knuckle involved in the assault had Coueffin’s DNA on them.
Justine Marie Hunt, Coueffin’s co-accused, was sentenced in February to 18 months of probation for possession of a weapon and break and enter.
Defence lawyer John Gustafson said Coueffin has had no prior criminal record, has distanced himself from trouble by taking a job out of town and has lived in the community without incident for nearly three years since the assault.
“The issue here appears to be Mr. Coueffin spending his time around some of the wrong people, and while that's a fairly vague suggestion it is supported by the evidence that we have before the court,” Gustafson said.
“Although his explanation is not detailed, to his credit he's not taking it upon himself to blame anyone but himself for his actions. So while there's not a guilty plea, there is a degree of accepting responsibility.”
Gustafson said it's unknown whether a knife was involved in the assault or if it was only the brass knuckles. Also unknown is who handled the weapons.
“There's some indication the brass knuckles may have been involved with the presence of blood,” he said.
“But we don't know which of the two parties had them during the time at the offense. We know that Mr. Coueffin handled them at some point as evidenced by his DNA.”
Winters is asking for a five-year prison sentence, while Gustafson is asking for two years to be followed by probation.
At the time of the assault, police said officers responded to a report of a disturbance involving two men fighting at an address on the 2700-block of Thompson Drive.
Coueffin is scheduled to return to court to learn his sentence on Dec. 4.
Kamloops police are on the lookout for a 32-year-old man wanted on a pair of warrants.
Mounties said Emmanuel Christian David Brooks is wanted on warrants related to theft under $5,000 and possession of a weapon while prohibited.
Brooks is described as a white man, standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 170 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information about Brooks’ whereabouts is asked to contact the Kamloops RCMP detachment at 250-828-3000.
UPDATE: 5:28 p.m.
Seven people were taken to hospital following a major collision Wednesday afternoon near Thompson Rivers University — three in critical condition and four stable.
A BC Emergency Health Services representative said ambulances were called to the scene, on McGill Road at University Drive, just after 3 p.m., sending seven ambulances and a paramedic supervisor to the scene.
The agency said paramedics provided care to an additional four people at the scene who didn't require hospital transport.
UPDATE: 4:54 p.m.
A witness to a major collision on McGill Road near Thompson Rivers University says he was eating lunch when he saw a truck coming right at him — until it hit a tree and changed direction.
Police have said "serious injuries" resulted from the collision, though the number of people hurt and the extent of their injuries, as well as the number of vehicles involved, is not yet known.
Jason Chan said he was eating at a restaurant next to the scene of the collision, on McGill Road at University Drive, just before 3 p.m. when he heard loud bangs that he first thought were gunshots.
“Right in front of me was this huge window, I saw this truck, it was coming at me and it hit the tree, it bent the other way,” said Chan.
“I saw there was three, four or five cars, everyone’s stopped and then people just ran into help.”
Chan said he ran out and tried calling 911, but emergency crews arrived on scene “almost immediately.” He said he saw three people put into an ambulance.
“I saw the truck coming and me — it was scary, actually scary,” he said. “Then debris came flying and the window stopped it.”
He said a saw woman rescued from a red vehicle say the driver of a black truck was driving too fast.
“She was pointing at that black truck, so I assume he's the one that caused all this and he walked out unscathed," he said.
The investigation into the collision is ongoing. Anyone with information can call police at 250-828-3000.
UPDATE: 4:12 p.m.
Witnesses to a major collision Wednesday on McGill Road near Thompson Rivers University say one of the vehicles involved appeared to be speeding moments before the crash.
Emergency crews were called to the intersection of McGill Road and University Drive at about 3 p.m. for a multi-vehicle collision. It is so far unclear how many vehicles are involved.
Two witnesses at the scene told Castanet Kamloops the collision appears to have been caused by a pickup truck, which was speeding east on McGill Road toward Summit Drive.
“Apparently the black truck that’s over there was coming down the hill too fast and just hit into the other cars as well,” said one man.
“A witness told us he thought the truck was going over 100 km/h.”
Another witness said she heard a loud bang, then looked outside to see a pile of mangled vehicles.
“Heard a big bang and then noticed almost all of the trees going down McGill between Dalhousie and Summit were sheared right off,” she said.
“Came outside and the cars were all piled up at the University intersection.”
Castanet Kamloops has a reporter at the scene. This story will be updated when more becomes known.
ORIGINAL STORY: 3:40 p.m.
An intersection near Thompson Rivers University is closed to traffic after a serious multi-vehicle collision on Wednesday afternoon.
Kamloops Fire Rescue, paramedics and RCMP have responded to the crash, which happened at McGill Road and University Drive at about 3 p.m.
Kamloops RCMP Cpl. Crystal Evelyn said there have been injuries reported as a result of the collision.
Officials haven’t yet confirmed how many vehicles were involved, or the severity of the injuries suffered in the crash.
“The public is asked to please avoid the area,” Evelyn said.
Castanet Kamloops has a reporter at the scene. This story will be updated when more becomes known.
A judge has stayed four sexual assault charges laid against a Kamloops man because prosecutors took too long to bring him to trial.
Jonathan Tait Steinkampf was charged in April of 2021 with one count of sexual assault spanning a two-year date range.
Steinkampf was supposed to have had his day in court last year, but five weeks before his trial prosecutors amended the indictment to include four counts of sexual assault spanning a three-year date range. The new allegations increased Steinkampf’s legal jeopardy.
Steinkampf’s lawyer refused to proceed to the scheduled trial dates on the amended charges — forcing the Crown to lay new charges entirely — and filed a Charter challenge alleging his right to be tried within a reasonable time had been breached.
Kamloops provincial court Judge Lorianna Bennett sided with Steinkampf and stayed the charges, ruling the new trial dates were outside the range laid out by the Supreme Court of Canada in a landmark case on delay in criminal prosecutions.
Bennett called the case “an anomaly.”
“While I acknowledge that any delay was unintended, the reality is that Crown made a tactical decision to amend the charges in a matter that could, and did, have a significant impact on the judicial process,” she said.
The BIG Little Science Centre is opening its doors to adults for an after-hours event about the science of light, complete with interactive light shows, complimentary snacks and a glowing drink.
The event is taking place on Thursday from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. at the science centre, located at 458 Seymour St.
“This exclusive, after-hours event promises an evening where light and science collide to create an extraordinary experience,” said a news release from the BIG Little Science Centre.
“As the sun sets over Kamloops, the science centre will come alive with a symphony of light, offering a fresh perspective on our captivating exhibits.”
Attendees can take part in interactive light shows and demonstrations, including presentations about different ways to make light and rocks that shine and glow.
Tickets are $15 per person, and can be purchased in person, over the phone or online.
A Kamloops-area woman who was told she couldn’t sing as a child has earned a gold medal from the “Olympics of a cappella” after a 30-year singing career.
Deborah Swain, a library assistant at Chase secondary school, said she was able to travel to Louisville, Ken., as a member of the Vancouver-based Lions Gate Chorus for the 75th Annual Sweet Adelines International Convention and Competition.
“It was just electrifying, the power of the music itself and then when you're singing, there's 100 Women in that chorus and you're sharing not just the music but the emotion and the energy behind it,” she said.
“I wish someone, more than one person, told me when you get up on that stage, just take a moment and look around and just really give yourself a second to understand what it takes to get there.”
Swain said the COVID-19 pandemic forced the group to perform in front of virtual audiences, but said it was “powerful” to return with a live performance of Cabaret and The Impossible Dream in the competition’s semi-finals to a crowd of 6,000.
“That Impossible Dream personally spoke to me like I can't even describe, because when I was little I was told I couldn't sing,” she said.
“So to be able to be on the international stage and be part of the best chorus in the world — a huge leap.”
According to a news release from Lions Gate Chorus, the chorus was the first in Sweet Adelines history to receive a perfect score in any category from judges.
It also marked the first time the Lions Gate Chorus brought home the international gold medal in the chorus’ 69-year history.
“For me, it's probably going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Swain said.
She said she first auditioned and began singing with Lions Gate Chorus about a year ago, driving to Vancouver once or twice a week for rehearsals, extra coaching sessions and shows.
“Driving back and forth to Vancouver from here has been fairly expensive — some sacrifices in other parts of my life to be able to do it,” Swain said.
“Thankfully, I've had a couple of administrators here at my schools that have been willing to let me make it work, but so worth it to have that experience."
Swain said she was first convinced to join the group when another local singer, Sue Elder, who has been singing with the Lions Gate Chorus for six years, convinced her to jump in with both feet.
“She had been singing with our group here in Kamloops and decided that she wanted to challenge herself and join the group down in Vancouver about six years ago,” Swain said.
“One evening, we were at a singing event here in Kamloops, and she's like, ‘why don't you come with me?’”
For most of her nearly 30 year career, Swain said she’s performed with the Kamloops-based chorus Desert Sounds A Cappella+ and said the group is always looking for new singers.
“There is nothing like taking it to that level where you thought you might never get to,” Swain said.
“If there's something that you're passionate about, just go for it with all that you can.”
Kamloops council eyes 10.8 per cent tax hike as inflation, supply chains, labour costs impact budget
Ongoing supply chain issues, continued impacts of inflation and labour contract changes are some of the factors expected to impact the City of Kamloops’ budget next year.
David Hallinan, the city’s corporate services director, gave council members a look at the proposed 2024 budget during Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting, including a provisional 10.8 per cent tax increase.
“I want to really preface there is a lot of risk in this budget this year. This is probably one of the most difficult budget years for putting [it] together based on just what is going on in the world around us,” Hallinan said.
According to city administration, about 7.6 per cent of the increase is due to contractual obligations and economic impacts.
“Many of our union contracts are expiring, specifically for our key partners,” Hallinan said, noting these include CUPE workers, firefighters and police.
“Of note, the city does not negotiate the RCMP contract, that is done on a federal level. So we essentially get a bill from the government in terms of what they have concluded and what they have finalized.”
It’s estimated RCMP contract increases will result in a $2.9 million impact on budget.
Hallinan said a BC Transit contract was settled earlier this year, which resulted in a $2.2 million funding increase. However, transit revenues in Kamloops are up, resulting in an additional $1 million in revenue to the city which helps balance out this impact.
Hallinan said BC Transit, Kamloops Fire Rescue and city fleets are also seeing significant fuel increases and maintenance costs.
Coun. Stephen Karpuk asked if other municipalities are facing the same increased costs due to union contract negotiations.
“What we are seeing across the board in labor unions period at this point, not to call them out or single them out, but we are seeing significant numbers and significant wage increases being requested,” Hallinan replied.
Council heard other municipalities are facing similar tax hikes next year, including a provisional 9 per cent for Mission, 6 per cent for Nanaimo, 8 per cent for Saanich, 9.8 per cent for Coldstream, 8.6 per cent for Cranbrook and 7.3 per cent for Chilliwack.
While there's months of budget discussions yet to come, Kamloops’ provisional increase sits at 10.8 per cent, with 1 per cent, or about $1.35 million, intended for the city's Build Kamloops initiative. The ambitious plan aims to build more recreation, arts and culture facilities for the community.
Hallinan told Castanet the slightly higher tax increase estimated for the Tournament Capital may be due in part to the city’s focus on upkeep for parks and sports-related infrastructure, as well as the fact that Kamloops is a hub centre.
“We're seeing a lot of everything coming this direction. We see it in emergency events where cities evacuate. …That places a little bit of a pressure on the city to be able to help support when those types of events happen,” he said.
Coun. Katie Neustaeter thanked Hallinan for incorporating the one per cent for Build Kamloops so council could consider its impact and hear feedback from residents about the move.
“It would be the easiest one to let go because it's an additive, but it's also the only one we see in there that will generate revenue, that we have some kind of an ROI [return on investment] on something in there,” Neustaeter said. “I think it's something for us to really carefully consider.”
Council voted 8-1 in favour of directing staff to prepare a bylaw for the five-year provisional financial plan, including the additional one per cent tax increase in support of Build Kamloops.
Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson was opposed, noting he felt some costs are being “downloaded” on to Kamloops taxpayers by other levels of government.
The final tax rate won't be settled until spring 2024, with council still needing to go through several rounds of budget talks. A public budget meeting is set for Thursday, Nov. 30 at Sandman Centre.
Hallinan said the city is open to hearing public feedback and answering questions about the budget. He acknowledged no one likes to pay taxes, but noted the money goes to provide important services like police and fire protection.
"There are things out there that I want to pay for and I really hope I never use, policing and fire are the two that come to mind. I don't want to make the phone call to 911 and have the fire department come to my house, but it's like insurance in my mind," he said.
"There's lots of things we collectively do to support the community that we want to live in."
A man who was carjacked at gunpoint in downtown Kamloops says his stolen BMW was found abandoned in Abbotsford with minimal damage, but the suspect is still on the lam.
Vancouver resident Arl Adlao said he was visiting family in Kamloops for the holidays. He was picking up his friend on Nicola Street at about 10:30 p.m. Monday to go to the gym when a man approached his car brandishing a gun.
“I’m on the driver side and he pointed a gun on me and asked me to get out. My doors are locked though, but I’m also scared — so I put my hands up,” said Adlao.
“After that, I was thinking maybe I can just drive my car and run. But yeah, I was too scared.”
Adlao said the man was “smart” and made distance between them when he stepped out of his car. The armed suspect jumped in Adlao’s car and made off with it.
Adlao said his friend saw everything from outside his front door and they immediately called 911.
The suspect is described as being a white man in his 40s, standing about 5-foot-7, wearing a black jacket and cap, with a wrinkled face and facial hair, according to Adlao.
He said his BMW contained plenty of personal items including his phone, headphones, snowboard, shoes, boxing equipment and a Gucci bag.
Adlao said he attempted to track his stolen phone from his laptop but was unable to locate it.
“They already found my car in Abbotsford, but my side mirror’s broken, my stuff is still there but I think he probably stole my phone,” Adlao said.
From what police told Adlao, it sounded like the only other item taken from his vehicle, beside his possibly stolen phone, was a box of chocolates which the suspect ate.
Adlao said aside from the broken side mirror, there wasn’t any apparent damage to the exterior of his vehicle.
While the suspect still hasn’t been located, Adlao said he’s waiting to get a spare key before he reconnects with his stolen car.
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