A tragic death has gripped the west coast after a beloved Tofino woman was found dead along a highway near the seaside community last Saturday night.
Shannon Boothman was a longtime resident of Tofino who friends say appears to have died from hypothermia while walking in a saturating and cold rain storm.
Boothman’s two great loves were her dogs and Tofino. So the 54-year-old’s mysterious death while walking along Highway 4 to Tofino Saturday night, with her dogs by her side, has locals grieving and looking for answers.
“Town’s not going to be the same without you. Thick and thin, always been there,” said friend and Tofino resident Mike Bell.
“She was very well liked in this community, very popular,” said the victim’s longtime boyfriend, Todd Stetsko.
It happened Saturday night, in a cold, dark rainstorm that left Highway 4’s Sutton Pass covered in snow.
According to Stetsko, Boothman was dropped off on the highway kilometres outside of town, and said she was walking to a friend’s house. She never made it.
Her body was found unclothed from the waist down the next morning. RCMP confirm they responded, but say the investigation has been handed over to the BC Coroner’s Service because it doesn’t appear to be suspicious.
Stetsko says he was told by RCMP that indications are she suffered hypothermia, but he wants RCMP to look closer at what he calls the “terrible scene” she was found in.
“Oh I was just horrified. It’s the kind of thing you hope never happens but know the possibilities that it will,” said Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council President Judith Sayers.
The Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council has thousands of members living in remote west coast communities who are reliant on Highway 4.
“It’s just horrible to think of that poor woman out there, suffering,” said Sayers.
There are no gas stations or cell phone service for 85 kilometres on Highway 4 between Port Alberni and Tofino-Ucluelet, so the many who loved Boothman are left wondering what happened to her.
“Just take every precaution you possibly can,” said Sayers.
Cell phone service improvements are on the way for Highway 4 to improve safety, but officials say it could be 18 months to even a few years before infrastructure is in place.
Boothman’s friends are urging everyone travelling between Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino to take extra care, and ensure people know your plans and when to come looking if you vanish.