From lotto luck to ‘hero’ truck: CHEK News’ top web stories of 2023

From lotto luck to 'hero' truck: CHEK News' top web stories of 2023

With 2024 quickly approaching, now’s the time to reflect on the past year.

From record-breaking lotto luck to the northern lights to a local truck driver stopping suspected poachers, hundreds of Vancouver Island-based stories were posted to CHEK News’ website in 2023. So what better way to look back on the past 12 months than by narrowing it down to the top 12 most-read web stories of the outgoing year.

  1. Port Alberni ‘hero’ truck driver stops suspected poachers

Just hours after observing a huge herd of Roosevelt elk in the Squamish Valley in late June, Port Alberni’s Nolan Henderson learned that a cow elk had just been poached. “When I saw what I saw, I just couldn’t let them go,” he told CHEK News.

So when Henderson came across the suspected poachers’ truck, he said he quickly blocked them in with his own truck until police and conservation could get there.

  1. Man with hammer robs Victoria jewelry store

Rafal Zebrowski of downtown Victoria’s Francis Jewellers said he and his staff feared for their lives when a man armed with a hammer walked in during business hours and demanded they hand over merchandise.

“I approached him initially, but after seeing that he had a hammer in his hands, I had to backtrack. I was afraid for my life,” Zebrowski told CHEK News, adding that staff and customers were shaken up and wiping away tears following the April incident.

  1. Vancouver Island woman catches 44 lb. halibut at dock

On a June fishing trip to Winter Harbour, avid angler Margot Mallicoat cast her line trying to catch a halibut. The Nanoose Bay resident was standing at the docks and about to leave when she felt a tug. To her surprise, the catch was a metre-long, 44-pound halibut. 

“So I was hollering down to my friends to come down because I couldn’t believe it had happened, and yeah, it was a pretty amazing moment,” Mallicoat told CHEK News.

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(File photo.)

  1. Newborn baby found dead in parking lot of Victoria shopping plaza

Warning: This story contains graphic content that may be upsetting.

A baby found dead in the parking lot of a Victoria shopping plaza in April sparked concern for the well-being of the newborn’s mother. Officers and paramedics were called to the Blanshard Street Centre plaza between Bay Street and Kings Road for a report from someone who found the baby’s body.

The Vancouver Island Major Integrated Crime Unit took the lead on the investigation, and police believed the child was recently born and likely somewhere nearby.

  1. Five cougars caught on camera near Powell River

A wildlife aficionado from Powell River said he was surprised to capture live-cam footage of five cougars moving through the forest on the city’s outskirts.

The video from July showed the quintet of cats, including “a mom and last year’s brood,” according to Wayne Obermeyer, who sent the footage to CHEK News.

  1. Northern lights expected to be visible around Vancouver Island

In July, people around Vancouver Island were encouraged to look into the night sky as the northern lights were expected to be visible to stargazers.

At the time, a senior astronomy lab instructor at the University of Victoria told CHEK News we were nearing the end of an 11-year solar cycle that would make the dancing northern lights visible in more southern regions. The northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, are often seen in northern Canada, Alaska and other northern countries.

“It’s all connected to activity on the sun,” said Karun Thanjavur. “Many more sunspots are happening, very large sunspots and that is what’s giving rise to the solar activity…”

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(Photo: Julie Boyer)

  1. Colwood family finds cougar, dead deer in driveway

A Colwood family was shocked to find a cougar pacing around a dead deer in their driveway in April. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!'” Chelsea Amaris Lee told CHEK News, recalling the moment she looked out her Matilda Drive window to see the wild cat with its prey.

So Lee got out her camera and captured video of the ordeal, quickly posting it to a local Facebook group to warn others what was happening before their eyes.

  1. Vancouver Island beach named one of the best in the world

A popular beach on Vancouver Island narrowly made the list of the top 50 beaches in the world, according to travel website Big 7 Travel. In August, Mystic Beach, located on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, was named the 49th best beach in the world.

“Canada might not immediately spring to mind when you think about beautiful beaches, but with some 15,000 miles of beaches, it should do,” read the Big 7 Travel list.

  1. Dying Nanaimo woman evicted without cause

In March, Nanaimo seniors were evicted and suddenly given two weeks’ notice for what Sharon Kowalchuk’s support worker called “the most heartless reason.” Kowalchuk, in an emotional interview with CHEK News, said the verbal eviction notice from her landlord made it clear that the end-of-life care she needs was too disruptive.

“It’s disgusting. There’s no legal grounds for it. You know she’s palliative, she doesn’t have much longer to live,” said Shawn Nickerson, a community support worker.

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(File photo.)

  1. Passenger ditches vehicle on BC Ferries vessel, causing hour-long delay

A BC Ferry was more than an hour behind schedule in May after a passenger drove their vehicle onto the vessel but ditched it for public transit once arriving at their destination.

The Queen of Surrey crew, which had sailed from Horseshoe Bay (Vancouver) to the Sunshine Coast, noticed a vehicle without a driver when docking in Langdale.

  1. Nanaimo teen in serious condition after ‘heinous’ attack with baseball bat

Warning: This story contains graphic content that may be upsetting.

Barclay Kelly rushed from his Nanaimo yard in June after he heard screaming. He was the first to help a badly injured 18-year-old man who had just been attacked with a baseball bat. “He was out cold like just gone,” Kelly told CHEK News.

Video of the violent incident at the corner of Bruce Avenue and Dundas Street quickly began circulating on social media. It showed what appeared to be a teenage boy attacking another with a baseball bat before fleeing on foot up Bruce Avenue.

  1. Island winner of record $55M Lotto Max jackpot comes forward

The suspense was finally over after one lucky Vancouver Island resident stepped forward to claim the jaw-dropping $55-million Lotto Max jackpot.

In April, Sidney’s William Scott Gurney was revealed as the big winner. “I checked it said a few swear words, kind of sat there stunned for a bit and then I called in my assistant,” he told CHEK News. “It’s life-altering. It just doesn’t seem real.”

(Photo: BCLC)

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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