KETCHIKAN, Alaska — A 37-year-old woman from Richmond, B.C., has been identified as the Canadian killed when two sightseeing floatplanes crashed midair in Alaska earlier this week.
Elsa Wilk is one of the six deceased victims named by Alaska State Troopers late Tuesday.
The floatplanes were carrying cruise ship tourists when they collided Monday near the southeast Alaska town of Ketchikan.
The death toll was initially reported as four, with two people missing. The U.S. Coast Guard said the bodies of the two missing people were recovered near the crash site Tuesday night.
Global Affairs Canada says Canadian consular officials in Seattle were in contact with local authorities to gather additional information and provide assistance as needed.
“Our thoughts and sympathies are with the family and loved ones of the Canadian citizen who died in Alaska,” the department said.
The American victims were identified as 46-year-old pilot Randy Sullivan from Ketchikan, 62-year-old Cassandra Webb, 39-year-old Ryan Wilk and 46-year-old Louis Botha.
State troopers said the Australian was 56-year-old Simon Bodie.
The Royal Princess cruise ship left Vancouver for Anchorage on Saturday and was to return on May 25.
Coast Guard Commander Michael Kahle said earlier Tuesday that crews were searching both the water and the shore of a remote area called George Inlet for the two missing — the Canadian and Australian.
He said the area is en route to the Misty Fjords National Monument, a popular and active spot for sightseeing flights.
One of the planes was a single-engine de Havilland Otter operated by Taquan Air and was returning from a wilderness tour sold through Princess Cruises of the Misty Fjords, the company said.
It was carrying 10 guests from the Royal Princess and a pilot, who were all Americans, the statement said.
The other plane, a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, was operating an independent flight tour carrying a pilot and four guests, of which two were American, one was Canadian and the other was Australian, the company added.
The pilot and nine passengers on the Otter were able to make their way to shore, where they were rescued and taken to hospital, Kahle said.
The survivors were in fair or good condition, said Marty West, a spokeswoman for PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center.
Local emergency responders worked with state and federal agencies and private vessels to help rescue and recover victims.
“It’s been a long day and the crews have been working really hard to rescue people and recover the deceased,” said Deanna Thomas, a spokeswoman for the local government, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.
Jerry Kiffer of the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad said several of the passengers had been removed from the beach by the time his crews arrived on Monday.
“Obviously, we had some injuries — broken bones, lacerations, back injuries, but everybody was reasonably calm,” he told the news conference Tuesday.
The debris field was about 300 metres wide and 800 metres long, with doors, seats and life-jackets strewn in a way that indicated an aircraft had come apart in the air, Kiffer said.
Taquan Air said the company has suspended operations while the crash is investigated.
“We are devastated … and our hearts go out to our passengers and their families,” it said in a statement.
It’s not known how the planes collided. U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigators arrived from Washington, D.C., Tuesday afternoon.
— By Daniela Germano in Edmonton and Laura Kane in Vancouver
— With files from The Associated Press
The Canadian Press
151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot
VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.
The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.
The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.
“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.
He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.
An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.
A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.
James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.
Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.
“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.
James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.
“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”
James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.
Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.
The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.
“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”
James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar
A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.
Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.
The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.
The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.
The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.
“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.
Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.
The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.
The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.
The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.
Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.
“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.
Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.
“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
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