LAKE COWICHAN FLASHBACK: Plane crash, huge arena referendum, and politics: this week in our history – Cowichan Valley Citizen

10 years ago:

The first inkling that something momentous was in the air can be seen in this headline from the Aug. 20, 2008 edition of the Lake Cowichan Gazette.

“Lake asked to pay $7.5 million for arena work: Nov. 15 referendum asks to borrow for renovations”.

This was a big, big deal in 2008.

“Cowichan Lake residents will be asked in a November referendum whether they support the borrowing of $7.5 million to do major renovations to the 38-year-old sports arena in Lake Cowichan. If approved by voters on Nov. 15, during municipal elections, it would cost property owners in Lake Cowichan, Youbou-Meade Creek and Skutz Falls-Cowichan Lake West $107 a year in taxes, over 20 years, on an assessed value of $300,000.

“The renovations include replacing the roof, new arena dressing rooms as well as upgrading existing dressing rooms, two new public washrooms with handicap accessibility, a curling dressing room, new administrative offices, a new children’s play area and more.

Sheila McFarlane of Lake Cowichan, chair of the recreation commission, believes it’s a case of use it or lose it and if the arena is not improved the area won’t be keeping up with the times.

“I know it’s a lot of money, but if we just do the roof then we’re still stuck with an office that’s too small and dressing rooms that are out of date,” said McFarlane. “I think this town will make a turn around and if we don’t upgrade then people from here will be going to Duncan for their recreation.”

25 years ago:

“Bruce to cover province in bid to lead Socreds” said The Lake News headline on Aug. 18, 1993.

Yes, it was 25 years ago that the Cowichan Valley’s Graham Bruce traveled more than 10,000 kilometres in his effort to take the big chair and lead the Social Credit Party troops to victory in B.C.

“We were on a dual mission, focusing on the leadership and an opportunity to restore interest in the Socreds,” Bruce told The Lake News.

Bruce had been in the news recently because of the announcement by Jack Weissgerber, interim leader of the Social Credit Party, that he would resign Nov. 6. This leaves the door open for leadership candidates to declare their intentions.

“Bruce announced he would run for leader last May at a luncheon in Duncan.

“’Last week we were in Kelowna a city of some 200,000 people. We discovered there is more interest in the Socreds than we believed. We had a good reception. Fifty per cent of the campaign team attended our meeting,” he said.

40 years ago:

“Crash victims escape from sinking plane” was the riveting headline on the Aug. 16, 1978 issue of The Lake News.

“Quick action by a number of Lake Cowichan people probably saved the lives of the two occupants of a light airplane that crashed on landing on Cowichan Lake last Tuesday.

“The pilot and owner of the plane, William Birrell, 48, of Nanaimo, and passenger Athena Smith, 17, of Cedar, were pulled from the wreckage minutes before it sank. They suffered cuts and bruises in the accident that occurred when the two-seat Lake Amphibian touched down for a landing near Weaver’s Market about 11:15 a.m.

“Witnesses said the aircraft seemed to flip the moment it touched the water. The cause of the accident is undetermined. A police spokesman said the area where the plane landed was checked for deadheads and floating debris but none could be found…Shortly after the accident occurred, a number of boaters rushed to the scene to give assistance. Among the first on scene was Norris Nygaard who lives on the lake nearby. Lance Lingren observed the crash from the Lake Cowichan Water Ski Club’s facility on the south shore of the lake. He raced to the scene in his boat, accompanied by Armin Merkel. David South of Ladysmith, towing a water skier at the time of the accident, dropped the skier and raced to the scene to help with the rescue.

“Merkel said the aircraft was upside down when they arrived and there was so much damage they had difficulty getting the door open. Finally, the pilot managed to force the door open from the inside. The crash victims were ferried to Trade Winds Resort in Lingren’s boat. They were taken to the doctors’ clinic in Lake Cowichan and later to Cowichan District Hospital for treatment.

“Al Lawrence said another boater attached lines to the airplane in an attempt to pull it to shallow water but within minutes it began sinking and had to be released. A marker buoy was placed in the water near where the plane sank.

“The next day, diver Alfonso Vega located the plane in about 80 feet of water. Salvage operations were carried out Friday and the wreckage of the plane was pulled to shore. The airplane was apparently not insured.”

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