B.C.’s top local news stories of 2019

A year in review: the shocking, stirring and amazing stories that caught our attention

This story is part of Black Press Media’s 2019 Year in Review. Celebrate the end of a decade by taking a look back through our top stories by clicking here.

There was no shortage of shocking, stirring, and amazing news stories to come out of our communities in British Columbia in 2019.

But if you’re looking for a list of our biggest news stories – this isn’t it. Instead, this is the list showcasing the stories that make community news so special, from inspiring acts of kindness to community resilience – all by Black Press Media reporters who were in communities across this vast province, sharing stories with their readers of what matters most.

Here is Black Press Media’s Year in Review, containing our top local headlines from across B.C.

January

Theo the 800-pound pig lives high on the hog after rescue

Theo – an 800-pound pig – came into the Langley animal shelter’s care last summer after he was found running at large down the Fraser Highway. This year, he found his forever home. READ MORE >

Ratfish generates buzz online in Campbell River

Talk about a fish out of water! An odd-looking fish spotted near Campbell River lit up social media. READ MORE >

Pregnant Cariboo firefighter tries to save own house from blaze

A pregnant Cariboo-area firefighter and her partner received endless support from their community after Julia Flinton tried to save her own house from a fire. READ MORE >

Princeton finally lifts curfew for teenagers

Nixing the bylaw came as a result of town council unearthing dozens of dusty bylaws – some more than 60 years old – and voting to repeal them. Acting CAO Lyle Thomas called the exercise a “housekeeping item,” while noting none of the bylaws being rescinded have been relevant or enforced in many years. READ MORE >

February

Bertie the ‘Wonder Dog’ survives 11 days on Sumas Mountain

Bertie is a fluffy, snugly, lovable pooch who adores attention and hates to be alone. But his family has now dubbed him “Bertie the Wonder Dog” after the little guy survived 11 days on Abbotsford’s Sumas Mountain – an area roamed by coyotes and which has had numerous cougar and bobcat sightings over the years. READ MORE >

Thieves swipe giant burger from Shuswap restaurant

Call it a ham-burglary. Spoiler alert: The giant hamburger was eventually returned to the Shuswap Grill Gourmet Burgary. READ MORE >

Toboggan versus rat: Startling collision on Victoria road

When Cole Salsman was sledding down a Victoria- area hill he caught an unbelievable moment on his GoPro. READ MORE >

‘Papa Jimmy’ of Maple Ridge dies making daily trek to his wife

For the past 12 years, Jim Gonczol, 85, travelled from Maple Ridge to New Westminster every day, rain or shine, to visit his wife in a care home. In February, he was killed in a pedestrian collision doing what he loved. READ MORE >

March

Langley shop owners say they will keep selling controversial ‘Golliwog’ dolls

Following controversy, two Langley shopkeepers vowed to keep selling Golliwog dolls because they are “not a racist thing at all,” despite a complaint by a Surrey customer. READ MORE >

Keremeos man chooses death with dignified party – music, whiskey and cigars included

After years of serious health struggles related to diabetes, Dan Laramie left this world on his own terms, to the sound of cheers and applause celebrating a wonderful life. READ MORE >

Fraser Health slammed for discharging homeless patients into taxis bound for Chilliwack

“A homeless shelter is no place for a person with health concerns or special medical needs,” Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove wrote in an open letter. “Discharging patients into homeless shelters when they still require some level of care is not an acceptable practice.” READ MORE >

Kelowna police have guns drawn, Batman’s offer to help rejected

A West Kelowna woman captured an unlikely encounter of superhero Batman trying to help out police officers during an incident in March. “Batman pulled up in front of us, jumped out and ran to help before he was sent away due to it being unsafe,” Melissa Parent said. READ MORE >

April

Nanaimo children come to rescue of 90-year-old who couldn’t get up for 10 hours

Lorraine Buchan, 90, was taking out her trash bin March 14 when she fell and banged her head. Two children came to her rescue. READ MORE >

Maple Ridge son finds father thanks to DNA test

Darrell Sinclair had been searching for his biological father for 22 years. A DNA test as a gift helped Sinclair find him. READ MORE >

What’s age got to do with it? Vernon couple talks unconventional marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turned heads after being featured on show Extreme Love. READ MORE >

Three times the fun: Nelson couple gets pregnant with identical triplets

The odds are 10 in one million, but after two failed pregnancies a Nelson couple announced in April that they would be bringing home identical triplets, which were delivered this summer. READ MORE >

May

B.C. photographer injured after eagles plunge from sky

Lisa Bell was snapping pictures of a sky full of eagles when a routine day urned terrifying for the Bowser woman, leaving her with some bizarre injuries and quite a tale to tell. READ MORE >

Victoria woman seeks friends for her dad, disfigured by cancer

“Ever since we moved from Kamloops my dad hasn’t found a single friend that wants to hangout,” Kaitlyn Michaelis said. “It’s just so frustrating because my dad is such an interesting person.” READ MORE >

Abbotsford homeless man helps save eagle struck on Highway 1

Trevor Sweezey said he was looking for lost items on the side of the highway when he came across the injured eagle, and attempted to hitchhike with the bird to get it to help before police stepped in. READ MORE >

Man looking for ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’ finds old friend

The pair met travelling through Europe in the 60s. Decades later, Douglas Bradley contacted Black Press Media hoping to find the man he met – but he only knew his name was Dave, and that he lived on Vancouver Island. READ MORE >

One year after tragedy, Tonya Kilmer reflects on her life with Ben

“Ben’s disappearance sparked a massive search, bringing professionals, family, friends, and people from all walks of life into the beautiful outdoors of Vancouver Island,” said Tonya Kilmer, upon reflecting after her husband’s high-profile death. READ MORE >

June

Cricket the cat caught stealing gloves in Maple Ridge

In early summer, Karen Nixon had discovered in all 14 pairs of gloves – of garden, construction and ski varieties. Cricket the cat was the unlikely culprit. READ MORE >

Calgary man dies saving girl, 10, at B.C. lake

Two communities were in mourning after an Alberta man, named Jon Palmiere, gave his life to save a young girl at a Kootenay-area lake. READ MORE >

Mission RCMP help six-year-old celebrate his birthday

On Sunday, June 2, Austin celebrated his birthday with a party, and six members of the Mission RCMP came out to wish him well. However, the police didn’t crash the party, they were invited. READ MORE >

Rossland boy finds human kindness sweet as honey after beehive destroyed

After Jack Graham came home to find his precious bee hives destroyed, people across the province jumped into action to help the young teen. READ MORE >

Explicit sex-ed guide for adults mistakenly given to Creston elementary students

Oops… A number of parents were left baffled after a graphic sex education guide was mistakenly distributed to a Grade 6 and 7 health class at a Creston elementary school, sparking an apology from the school district for the awkward mishap. READ MORE >

July

Escaped William Head inmates recognized after commenting on off-duty RCMP officer’s dog

Just a few days after a pair of inmates at a Victoria-area prison escaped, they were found after commenting on a great Dane named Lewis while out for a walk. READ MORE >

Using scrap materials, man builds workout equipment at Surrey tent city

Through a small gap in the trees and down a dirt slope, worn down almost to a small staircase, was Shane Knight’s campsite in Surrey’s “Sanctuary” tent city – but it included a special piece of equipment which he hoped would help him pursue his dreams. READ MORE >

The Tube Shack breaks world record on Cowichan River

Owner Aaron Frisby said the goal was to break the Guinness World Record of 215.10 metres of tubes linked together. READ MORE >

Port Alberni fights bad reputation in international media amid manhunt for wanted teens

The Canada-wide manhunt for two Port Alberni teens, Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, suspected in three deaths in northern B.C. thrust the small city located in the heart of Vancouver Island into an unwanted limelight. The pair were found dead weeks later in Manitoba. READ MORE >

August

Popular song draws attention, thieves to Sicamous’ Old Town Road

A road sign has marked Old Town Road leading out to Sicamous’ Old Town Bay for decades, but after the release of a smash hit single by hip hop artist Lil Nas X, the sign took on a new significance for fans of the song. READ MORE >

Cougar not a fan of Metallica, Cowichan Valley woman discovers

Dee Gallant, who’s from Chemainus, was walking her husky dog Murphy July 23 on a logging road south of Duncan when they encountered a cougar. Then, she turned on Metallica. READ MORE >

‘So tired of all this violence’: Dramatic brawl caught on video in Surrey

“This happens all the time,” Karen Reid-Sidhu, executive director of Surrey Crime Prevention Society, said. “Our volunteers have witnessed drinking in public, drug dealings, and the harassment of young girls. It is disgusting.” READ MORE >

‘Larry loves you’: 3,000 strangers text B.C. woman for 30th anniversary gift

It’s traditional to commemorate 30 years of marriage with pearls, but instead Larry Steiner decided to lean on complete strangers to help bring his wife, Holly Bruce-Steiner, an anniversary she won’t soon forget. READ MORE >

Abbotsford truck owner pens angry letter to incompetent crook

‘Dear thief, you suck at stealing this truck.’ READ MORE >

September

Family gains closure after boy with GoPro helps Revelstoke RCMP solve case

After almost three decades of heartache and questions about Janet Farris’s disappearance, her family was finally found largely thanks to a 13-year-old boy and his GoPro. READ MORE >

BC SPCA forced to euthanize 35 of 87 dogs in 2018 Williams Lake seizure

Not all dogs rescued from bad situations can be saved. In February 2018, the BC SPCA announced they had seized 46 dogs from a property north of Williams Lake due to concerns of neglect, undersocialization and distress. The BC SPCA confirmed the deaths in September. READ MORE >

Abbotsford man breaks back, drags body through forest for three days until rescued

Dan Anderson’s last memory of the incident was falling roughly 50 feet from a large tree. READ MORE >

Raccoons punch hole through ceiling, ransack White Rock home

Ken Rechik felt his safety was in question after a gaze of raccoons punched a hole in his ceiling and ransacked his house. READ MORE >

October

Dash-cam captures suspected ‘keying’ of Tesla in South Surrey

A man whose vehicle was vandalized in a South Surrey parking lot in broad daylight last month posted dash-camera footage of the incident in hopes it would help police identify the culprit. READ MORE >

Romance scam involving fake Jeremy Renner targets Okanagan residents

A scam, involving The Hurt Locker actor, caught the concern of Crime Stoppers Central Okanagan – but also Jeremy Renner himself. READ MORE >

Upper Clearwater man’s canine leads rescue mission

When Trevor Goward went for an afternoon stroll up the mountainside with his canine companion, Purple, he had no idea his life would soon be in her paws. Luckily, Purple is a special dog with life-saving talents. READ MORE >

November

Chilliwack man finds nest of cockroaches in apartment for rent

Dayne Finley was about to sign lease papers when he noticed some creepy-crawleys behind the refrigerator. READ MORE >

101-year-old Langley soldier receives service medals three-quarters of a century after World War II

It took 74 years, but John Andrew “Dutch” McLellan finally received his World War II medals this Remembrance Day. READ MORE >

Princeton couple pays for dream vacation with 840,000 grocery store points

“It was amazing,” said Jo-Anne Roth. “We hadn’t had a holiday in 17 years.” READ MORE >

Bylaw loophole allows 16 rainbow crosswalks in Chilliwack, despite opposition

The group behind much of the crosswalks has since appealed to the Guinness Book of World Records to create a new category: Most Rainbow Crosswalks in a City. READ MORE >

Woman ‘horrified’ after being told to trek 200 kilometres home from Kamloops hospital

“At [1 p.m.], they told me – keep in mind I have no shoes, no clothes whatsoever – they told me that I’m being released to the streets and I have to find my own way.” READ MORE >

Guide company hit with $35,000 fine for baiting bears with peanut butter, meatballs in Clearwater

B.C.’s Conservation Officer Service began investigating in August 2017 after receiving a complaint the Blue River tour company had been baiting bears to increase sighting opportunities for clients. READ MORE >

December

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Christmas baking in Campbell River

After opening the freezer up, the bear broke into the containers and virtually licked the pans clean. READ MORE >

Princeton RCMP tasked with sex-mannequin disposal

In early December, Mounties in Princeton were tasked with disposing of three sex mannequins, discovered earlier this year in a wooded area near Manning Park. READ MORE >

‘I’m just happy to be alive’: Once-paralyzed Aldergrove father makes a full recovery

Earlier this year, Matt Reisig was rushed to hospital where he became paralyzed. But this Christmas, his family received a miracle. READ MORE >

Wildlife shelter clings to hope for malnourished bear cub found near Smithers

Shelter owner Angelika Langen said the bear came to them in such horrible condition they weren’t sure he was going to survive. A bear his age at this time of the year should weigh between 50 and 75 lbs but he is only 12 lbs. READ MORE >

Chilliwack couple collects thousands of dollars for charity from viral Harry Potter home

Katharine and Johnathan Wall invited folks to step inside their Chilliwack home from Dec. 20 to Dec. 22 where they transformed it into a scene straight out of a Harry Potter movie with a Gryffindor common room and more. READ MORE >

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