Residents say lake crash reason for more police presence on water

MAGNA BAY - Emergency officials were on shore during a popular fireworks display but residents are asking why there was no enforcement on Shuswap Lake before a tragic accident killed Anglemont resident Ken Brown.

Giovanna Goyan, a local resident and artisan, said she invited about 30 people to her lakeside residence Saturday evening to see the display fired from a barge.

"There was some control," Goyan said. "(But) police should be on the water, not just the land... . There was a multitude of boats that night. Someone goes too fast or their lights aren't on and there's an accident."

Residents said there were 150 boats or more on Shuswap Lake late Saturday for the fireworks. Goyan and other residents and businesses contributed toward the community event.

But as the boats dispersed afterward, a 5.5-metre Campion runabout operated by another North Shuswap resident ran head-on into Brown's 12-metre houseboat, ramping up inside the larger vessel, and killing the 53-year-old man.

Two other people remain at Royal Inland Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Thirteen people were aboard the houseboat and three on the runabout when the accident occurred.

Kirk McLaren, 17, of Kamloops had just returned from the fireworks show and was tying up his family's boat to their mooring buoy at Magna Bay when they heard the crash.

"We just heard a huge bang, we could hear the engines from the Campion still running. People were screaming for help," he said.

After the crash, the Campion's propellers continued spinning at high speed. He and his friend rushed to get to the stricken houseboat as quickly as they could.

McLaren said he jumped on the back and was stunned to see runabout completely inside the cabin of the houseboat.

"You would never think a boat could ever go inside another boat. I was very surprised. I've never seen anything like this before. It's mind-boggling," he said.

"I just kept thinking, there could be people dying, I had to get on there as soon as possible. Everyone was crying, they were pretty scared."

He used his boat to ferry about five of the passengers -including a woman with a baby - on the houseboat back to shore, then helped another man with a pontoon boat tow the houseboat to the shore.

By this time, emergency crews were arriving on scene.

Brown's coworker, Wayne Woods, said the accident came as a shock to those at the CP Rail maintenance yard in Chase, where he worked as part of a 30-year career with the railroad.

"He was a good worker," Woods said. "He was ready to retire in 2014. He was looking forward to retiring... . We're all going to be at a loss without him around."

Woods said he saw Brown earlier in the evening at the Anglemont Marina.

"I heard him talking. He was looking forward to taking people out. He did the same thing last year."

The houseboat, with the ski boat still lodged inside, was towed to Captain's Village Marina in Scotch Creek after the deadly crash. On Monday, investigators from the RCMP's West Coast marine division as well as Transport Canada assessed damage.

"We're here to help police - whatever they need," said Gavin Brown, a marine inspector based out of Kelowna with Transport Canada. Brown said the Transportation Safety Board will not be involved in the investigation. RCMP is the lead agency.

Chase RCMP Sgt. Troy Beauregard said it could be months before police release more information or decide whether to recommend charges against the ski boat operator.

"There are a lot of witnesses. There's a lot of technical things to go over," Beauregard told reporters outside the protected compound and warehouse building where the two craft are stored.

Investigators will survey damage and look at each craft to determine speed, including throttle openings. Beauregard would not say whether blood or breath samples were obtained from the motorboat operator.

RCMP detachments in Chase, Salmon Arm and Shuswap have patrol boats and many members are trained to operate them, Beauregard said.

"There was no police vessel out on that day. We did have the Chase boat out on Canada Day." Woods said he did not venture on Shuswap Lake Saturday evening due to the sheer number of boats and lack of police presence.

"They (police) should show a presence - let people know they're out there."

Gary Osborne, owner of the Anglemont Marina, said many residents would like more enforcement.

"We would very much like to see more police," Osborne said, describing Brown as "an excellent individual. "A lot of people are badly affected by this."

Brown once operated a parasailing business in the Shuswap in addition to his regular job.

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