Firefighters battle the blaze that destroyed Slack Alice’s pub in February. The story on the fire at the Penticton landmark was the most viewed for 2012

Firefighters battle the blaze that destroyed Slack Alice’s pub in February. The story on the fire at the Penticton landmark was the most viewed for 2012

Looking back at the top stories of 2012

End of Ironman and loss of a landmark among most read stories on Penticton Western News website

  • Dec. 28, 2012 7:00 a.m.

Stories that hit a nerve with readers of the Penticton Western News for 2012 ran a gamut from fires, tragic deaths, business stories to the conclusion of the Ironman Canada legacy in Penticton and the birth of the Penticton Challenge.

Using statistics that give the total page views on individual stories on the website, below are the top stories that generated the most attention from readers.

1 — Gathering the most page views for news stories on the website for 2012 was a fire in early February that left an iconic building reduced to nothing but rubble.

Although it only took a few moments to take down when fire ripped through Slack Alice’s in February, taking with it The Valley Motor Inn, Bubblee’s Beer and Wine Store and the Chinese Laundry, some walls in the building had been standing since the B.C. Hotel was first constructed in 1905.

When Penticton firefighters arrived on scene, a small plume of white smoke coming from the rooftop quickly turned to black smoke and despite their efforts to keep the flames at bay, the fire broke through and spread quickly through the historic building. Investigators probing the cause of the fire came up empty-handed.

Stories on the blaze generated more than 10,000 visits to the website, with a single article topping 7,300 views.

2 — Nearly every city has its own iconic event that becomes a part of its community’s identity and for several decades Penticton had Ironman Canada. However, all of that is about to change. With the 30th annual Subaru Ironman Canada ending its run in Penticton and the ushering in of Challenge Penticton, readers chimed in on the pros and cons of each.

After hearing presentations from both World Triathlon Corporation and Challenge Family, city council decided it was time for a change and to put the emphasis back on the athletes.

As well, Mayor Dan Ashton said it would provide a greater boost to the city’s economy. Challenge Penticton will take place Aug. 25, 2013 and is slated to be a week-long festival with twice the size of prize purse. Ironman decided to take its race to Whistler on the very same date as the Challenge will race in Penticton.

Four separate stories on the final Ironman and new Challenge race were all among the most read online stories, combining for more than 10,000 views. This put the story in second spot for most read online.

3 — A tragic story of a 12-year-old girl drowning on Skaha Lake was the third most-read story on the Penticton Western News website, with more than 4,200 page views.

In July, dive teams found Ida Marie Holt-Scherer’s body about 60 metres out from where she was last seen by family members playing with her cousins in the water just west of where the Okanagan River Channel dumps out into the lake.

That specific area of the beach followed Transport Canada guidelines, placing yellow buoys to mark a danger area at the drop-off where the girl slipped under.

The City of Penticton reviewed safety standards immediately following the death and two weeks later put up additional signage and extended an existing fence near the hazardous waterway. In addition, the city put new signage down the river channel waterway near the exit point.

4 — Generating a buzz with the January announcement of adding regional flights to their schedule, WestJet found a suitor in Penticton. Using the power of social media, residents of the South Okanagan were joined by the City of Penticton in courting the company through Facebook and Twitter.

The campaign kept flying in March with a flashmob video filmed at the Penticton airport and posted on YouTube for the world to see. The video has generated almost 15,000 views and was acknowledged by WestJet president and CEO Gregg Saretsky.

Since then, the city has presented their case to WestJet at their headquarters in Calgary and also have lobbied Air Canada executives for a Calgary air connection. As of November, WestJet said they would be announcing part of the schedule for their regional carrier, WestJet Encore, on Jan. 21, 2013. Air Canada announced in late December they would be adding one additional flight from Penticton to Vancouver as of May 1, 2013.

5 — An embattled Penticton teacher said he admitted three counts of professional misconduct only to put the matter behind him and protect his family. Miko McGrady was originally cited for nine allegations of inappropriate conduct between December 2009 and June 2010 while teaching French immersion at Penticton Secondary School.

He told the Western News he felt pressured by the B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch and his union-appointed lawyer to take a deal and avoid a hearing. McGrady claimed the allegations were brought forward by a single female student who had an axe to grind. The first of three stories posted on the Penticton Western News website generated 14 comments and more feedback rolled in as some of McGrady’s former students showed their support for him on our Facebook page. McGrady was given a two-week suspension by the B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch and returned to work at KVR Middle School in November.

6 & 7 — The sixth and seventh most-read stories on our website dealt with new business in the community with the opening of the Real Canadian Superstore and the Landmark Cinema 7 theatre respectively.

It was in October of 2011 when the owner of the Penticton Power Centre announced a Loblaws store would be moving into the site where Zellers was. In November of this year the Real Canadian Superstore opened its doors to the public.

Landmark Cinemas declared the home of their new Landmark Cinema 7 would be the property that was occupied by Liquidation World in September of 2011. The Pen-Mar closed its doors just over a year later, ushering in a new era of movie theatre experience to the city with seven new state-of-the-art screens.

8 — An announcement by the Penticton Hospitality Association confirming the Jehovah’s Witnesses have chosen Penticton as a conference site for the next few years took the number eight spot with nearly 1,800 views. The convention to be held in June is expected to draw 2,500 attendees. The convention is just part of what Dean Clark, general manager of the South Okanagan Events Centre, said looks be a banner year for the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.

9 — A Summerland businessman helped round out the Top 10 stories read online with his idea for a combined heat and power technology. Jai Zachary, president of ElectroMotion Energy Corporation, came up with the idea after a particularly cold day in December of 2008 and after discussion with the chair of Fortis about energy costs and the idea of peak demand. Zachary’s invention consolidates hot water heating, space heating, air conditioning and backup electricity in one unit.

10 —It was a tragic year for cyclists in the area. In July, Penticton cyclist Adam Larsson who was an avid member of the Penticton cycling scene lost his life after being struck by a car on Tuc-el-Nuit Drive in Oliver. Then in August, 60-year-old Guy Du Vent of Kaleden lost his life from injuries he suffered during a mountain biking accident on the rugged Three Blind Mice trail above Naramata in August.

Our number 10 story was the tragic story of another life lost in the spiderweb maze of trails. Dr. Robert Allan Mason was remembered as a gentle, caring man whose compassion touched all who knew him. The internationally recognized internal medicine specialist worked at the Lindsey Veterinary Hospital and spent much of his free time training as a triathlete with close friends.

Other top stories that each generated more than 1,200 page views include the story of the RCMP issuing a warning on a high-risk sex offender locating to Penticton; a proposed hockey dormitory being put on ice; and a woman found frozen to death on Apex Mountain.