As 2022 draws to a close, these are the top-five stories that resonated with Peninsula News Review readers.
1. Greater Victoria hockey community in mourning after Panther player dies in crash
The year started with tragedy. Eighteen-year-old Sooke resident Grant Gilbertson died in a crash near Sooke and Humpback roads while on his way to practice with the Peninsula Panthers on Jan. 3.
West Shore RCMP said icy road conditions contributed to the crash.
“Grant was the definition of a maintenance-free player and person,” Pete Zubersky, Panthers owner and general manager, told Black Press Media the day after the crash. “He always had a big smile on his face and when he came into my office at the rink he would light it up. This is a huge tragedy and my heart goes out to his family and friends. Grant has left us, but those of us who loved him will feel the pain of this loss forever.”
After postponing games, the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League continued play with the Panthers dedicating the season to Gilbertson. The team’s determination powered them to an overtime win to claim the VIJHL crown.
Aleko Sdrakas made perhaps the most important and touching play of the season for the Peninsula Panthers after they beat the Oceanside Generals 4-3. Skating nearly the full length of the ice at Panorama Recreation Centre at what looked like full speed, he raced into the team’s dressing room to grab Gilbertson’s jersey.
He then re-joined the coil of teammates celebrating Logan Speirs’ winning goal, with countless hands soon passing the jersey into the middle to complete a season marked by the team’s first championship in more than a decade, forever darkened by the death.
2. Hand grenades prompt airport closure
A Greater Victoria man faces mischief charges for interrupting service at Victoria International Airport with two decommissioned hand grenades. The discovery of those inert devices sparked the closure of Victoria International Airport to all commercial traffic for several hours on May 24.
A Canadian Air Transport Security Authority employee scanned one of the man’s bags through the typical process and became concerned as it appeared to contain suspicious-looking items – two of which appeared as incendiary devices, later described by RCMP “as decommissioned, inert hand grenades.”
The Sidney/North Saanich RCMP was contacted at around 1:30 p.m. on May 24, and after a brief investigation, took the man who claimed responsibility for the bag into custody.
An area of YYJ was cordoned off, at a distance recommended by explosive disposal experts, RCMP said in a statement. As the investigation continued, a second bag belonging to the same man was discovered, but this bag could not be safely scanned or examined.
Members of the RCMP explosives disposal unit travelled to the Island, arriving at 7 p.m. and examined the bags, determining the items were inert military surplus explosives.
3. North Saanich mom saves goose from eagle while breastfeeding 4-month-old daughter
A North Saanich woman made international headlines after being caught on camera saving her pet goose while breastfeeding.
As Caitlin Oakley was breastfeeding her four-month-old daughter Willow, as part of her bedtime routine, she heard the family’s pet goose Frankie outside. Frankie has been living for a year at the North Saanich home, alongside her goose partner Gerald, with whom she has recently adopted some baby running ducks.
But while Gerald was looking after the chicks, Frankie had wandered off. Sensing danger, Frankie did what she has always done in these situations.
“She always comes to the door when she feels threatened, or when there is something in the yard that shouldn’t be in the yard,” said Oakley.
That something was a bald eagle, which had swooped down just as Oakley was coming to the door to see what was going on — with Willow in her arms, mind you.
“So I flung the door open,” said Oakley. The move startled the eagle, which then grabbed its would-be dinner by the neck, dragging Frankie up the driveway. “I just ran (after it) and it let go.”
Oakley said the fact that she was breastfeeding the youngest of her three children — she has also two sons – did not register at all. “There was no awareness,” she said of the occasion. “It was just go — fight-or-flight mode for sure.”
This quick reaction, coupled with repeated verbal warnings aimed at the eagle, has elicited a wide range of congratulatory responses with the clip of Oakley’s rescue going viral.
4. Kayakers pull unresponsive man from Sidney waters before responders revive him
Two kayakers pulled an unresponsive man from the waters near Sidney in July before responders from both sides of the border were able to revive him.
The couple was kayaking near Tsehum Harbour on July 15 when they saw a small vessel circling without an operator, Sidney/North Saanich RCMP said. They quickly found a man face down in the water.
The local paddlers got the man out of the water, brought him to shore and had a nearby sailboat radio for help. Canadian first responders and Parks Canada staff, along with United States Coast Guard members, gave the man CPR on the shore and were able to resuscitate him.
5. Saanich Peninsula property’s $23-million selling price over double its 2021 assessment
Real estate continues to be a hot-button topic on the Saanich Peninsula.
A fall sale made January headlines when the highest assessed residence on the Saanich Peninsula sold for more than double its assessed value.
The 13,000-square-foot waterfront home in Central Saanich set a record with a sale price of $22.75 million. The property at 8404 Lawrence Rd. had an assessed value as of July 1, 2021, of just under $11.15 million.
The home, which sold to an unknown buyer for its asking price, features a private beach and boat launch.
Other amenities in the six-bedroom home include eight bathrooms and various recreational and culinary facilities, including a detached yoga studio and underground wine cellar.
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