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Crash claims Penticton veterinarian's life

Dog handler Steve Ritchey (right) and Charlie wait with other members of Penticton Search and Rescue near the scene of a mountain biking accident Sunday which claimed the life of a Penticton veterinarian. - Mark Brett/Western News
Dog handler Steve Ritchey (right) and Charlie wait with other members of Penticton Search and Rescue near the scene of a mountain biking accident Sunday which claimed the life of a Penticton veterinarian.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

A lover of life, Dr. Robert Allan Mason was remembered this week as a gentle, caring man whose compassion touched all who knew him.

Tragically, Sunday morning the 53-year-old veterinary specialist died as a result of injuries suffered in a mountain-biking accident in the spider-web maze of trails called The Three Blind Mice on the hillsides above Naramata Bench.

“He was just somebody who was always thinking about other people first,” said Dr. Grant Nixon, a friend and colleague of 16 years. “He really had an attitude of gratitude in his life and was never in a bad mood.

“A good example is when you called his phone and got his answering machine, at the end of it he said, ‘I hope you have an awesome day and make someone else’s day awesome too.’”

The pair often worked together at the Lindsey Veterinary Hospital where Mason based himself after moving to the city a number of years ago, simply because he loved the Okanagan lifestyle so much.

According to Nixon, another example of his friend’s caring nature was his commitment to participating each year in the annual Ride2Survive event.

Raising money for cancer research, in a single day cyclists pedal the 400-kilometre, 12,000-foot climb between Kelowna and Delta.

“That really was what Rob was all about,” said Nixon.

Along with his work in Penticton, the internationally recognized internal medicine specialist also spent several days a month at a Victoria clinic and another in Winfield.

Previously he had worked at practices in Seattle, Wash. and Vancouver.

This week Mason’s family released a brief statement about the accident:

“On Sunday, Oct. 21, Rob Mason set out on a mountain bike ride with four of his close friends and training partners.

“It was a prime day for a mountain bike ride on Three Blind Mice with perfect biking conditions.

“During the ride, Rob, an avid triathlete, and his friends set out on the trail they had ridden many times before. During the ride, the group stopped a few times for nutrition and water breaks and shared stories and laughs as they always did. Rob was his normal humorous self, telling stories like no one else could. Shortly after the last stop, an accident occurred on his bike.

“Emergency crews and his wife Mary-Ellen were notified and Rob’s close friends stayed by his side. Mary-Ellen was by Rob’s side until paramedics arrived. Shortly after paramedics arrived, they pronounced Rob had succumbed to his injuries and passed away. At this time, out of respect to Mary-Ellen and her family’s privacy, we ask that all well wishes go to: we.love.rob.mason@gmail.com.”

This was the second fatal accident on the same trail in less than two months. In late August, Guy Joseph Du Vent of Twin Lakes died of injuries after a fall from his bike.

While Mason did not compete in mountain biking, he instead used it as a cross-training exercise for his real passion, the Ironman Canada race which he took part in again this year.

Nixon, also an avid cyclist,  added that on the trails Mason was not a risk taker and always wore his helmet, which emergency personnel and the Coroner’s Service confirmed after the accident.

Immediately following the incident a B.C. Air Ambulance helicopter was called to the scene and a short time later members of Penticton Search and Rescue were dispatched.

Search manager Cindy Smith said the mishap took place on a “moderate” section of trail.

“This was not an extreme area by any means but accidents do happen fairly often up there, but they’re not usually as serious,” said Smith afterwards. “People are often able to self rescue or have friends help them out.

“It’s the nature of the sport but it is just tragic that it’s been such extreme accidents for two people this year.”

Friends and family are invited to a celebration of Mason’s life Saturday at Bench 1775 Winery located at 1775 Naramata Rd. starting at 1:30 p.m.

Those attending are advised to dress for outside conditions. People are also asked, in lieu of flowers, to make a donation to the Ride2Survive program which can be done at: ride2survive.ca.

“Rob was a wonderful friend and a brilliant veterinarian and will be greatly missed,” said Nixon.

 

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