Facebook photo/Bridget Matewish Howard, the world’s tallest gnome, located along the Island Highway near Nanoose Bay will remain on Vancouver Island.

2019: Counting down the stories the gripped Vancouver Island

Presenting the most read stories of the past 12 months on vifreedaily.com

Here are the most-read Vancouver Island stories of 2019:

10) No survivors in Gabriola Island plane crash

There are no survivors after a plane crashed on Gabriola Island.

The crash happened Tuesday near Ricardo Road on the northwestern corner of the island. B.C. Emergency Health Services were called out just after 6 p.m. RCMP on scene said more than one person died in the crash and no one survived.

“Through investigation it was learned that a small plane had crashed on the northwest corner of the island. RCMP members travelled to the scene and are confirming multiple fatalities from this crash,” noted the B.C. Coroners Service in a statement. “Because of the nature of plane crashes, this event will be investigated in partnership with the Transportation Safety Board, who have been notified and will be attending the scene on Dec. 11.”​

— Karl Yu (with files from Canadian Press), Dec. 10

9) Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

A Port Alberni mom will soon have her time in court after she claims her two children’s rights to religious freedom were infringed on after their elementary school held an Indigenous smudging ceremony.

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70 and seeking a court-ordered ban on the cultural practice in schools across the province. The petition, first filed in late 2016 and is set to be heard in Supreme Court in Nanaimo on Monday.

At the beginning of the school year in 2015, John Howitt Elementary School’s principal Stacey Manson sent out a letter informing parents that a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation would be visiting the school to talk with students about their culture and history.

— Ashley Wadhwani, Nov. 15

8) Vancouver Island woman battered and bruised by dog running free in on-leash park

A Vancouver Island woman wants to raise awareness about the damage that an off-leash dog can cause.

Gloria Klettke, 71, says she was injured by a dog that was running free at Tyee Spit in Campbell River. It was wearing a leash but the owner wasn’t holding it or paying attention, she said.

“His leash wrapped around my legs, and I tried to push the dog and the leash away so I could get walking,” she said. “He took my feet right out underneath me. My head went straight into the pavement.”

— David Gordon Koch, July 25

7) Tonya Kilmer fighting to block release of coroner’s report

Tonya Kilmer is outraged that the British Columbia Coroners Service is planning to release details of her husband death.

Kilmer says she has seen the report and fears revealing exactly how Ben Kilmer took his life will have a traumatic affect on her two young children and other family members.

“When they are older and if they ask me, I would tell them the details could be very painful and are they sure they want to know,” Kilmer said.

— Warren Goulding, June 14

6) Invasive crab spotted near Sooke

While residents report spotting an invasive crab in Sooke, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) says they’re aware, but do not have enough data to know if we have an invasion in our waters.

European Green Crabs, identifiable by five spines to the outside of each eye, are one of the 10 most unwanted species in the world according the DFO website.

Patty Menning, a member of the Aquatic Invasive Species program with DFO, says the crabs will compete with natives species for food and will dig for inter-tidal vegetation making them a nuisance on the shoreline.

— Kendra Crighton, Feb. 22

5) Excessive speed on the Malahat captured by dash cam footage

A dash cam video uploaded to Facebook on Monday shows a silver vehicle driving at dangerous speeds on the Malahat.

The video was recorded Jan. 12 at 3:45 p.m. and shows a silver sedan changing lanes before speeding past the car recording.

In a comment, uploader Nicholas Timmenga defended his decision to post the video, saying: “As part of the car community, it’s infuriating to see behavior like this. Respectful people are getting hassled all over the place for tasteful mods and this guy spits in the face of traffic law. Ear splittingly loud exhaust, and an insane amount of speed; it’s dangerous, obnoxious, and disrespectful.”

— Nina Grossman, Jan. 15

4) And the snowiest community on Vancouver Island is…

You want to get away from all this snow? You might want to head up to Mount Washington.

OK, that’s an exaggeration, given that the ski hill boasts a base of 225 centimetres, but only 11 of those centimetres fell Monday and overnight Tuesday, while communities across the rest of the Island are reporting 15 centimetres or more.

Black Press reporters took out their measuring sticks from Victoria to Campbell River this morning to check on how much snow has accumulated over the past few days.

— John McKinley, Feb. 12

3) Father of suspect in 3 B.C. deaths expects son will go out in ‘blaze of glory’

The father of a suspect in the deaths of three people in northern British Columbia says his son is in “very serious pain” and he expects a nationwide manhunt will end in the young man’s death.

Alan Schmegelsky says his son, 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky, had a troubled upbringing. He struggled through his parents’ acrimonious split in 2005 and his main influences became video games and YouTube.

“A normal child doesn’t travel across the country killing people. A child in some very serious pain does,” Schmegelsky said in an emotional interview Wednesday in Mill Bay, B.C., near his home in Victoria.

— Laura Kane, July 24

2) Auto shop apologizes after employees disrespect memorial convoy in Nanaimo

An auto service chain issued a public apology after employees were said to have made rude gestures to truck drivers who were paying their respects to an eight-year-old Nanaimo boy who died this month.

More than 100 big-rig trucks were downtown on Sunday afternoon as part of a convoy paying tribute to Linden Baglo, who was struck and killed by a pickup truck while riding his bike in Nanaimo on Jan. 6.

Convoy organizer Pete Fry said as the trucks passed the Mr. Lube location on Terminal Avenue on Sunday, “all the staff was outside” giving the middle finger and yelling at the truckers. Fry said he later heard that the employees thought the convoy was some sort of pipeline rally or protest, but “if you don’t know what it is, why would you do that, especially in your uniform?”

— Greg Sakaki, Jan. 22

1) The world’s tallest gnome is apparently 16 inches too tall for Saanich

If the back-and-forth saga of a Vancouver Island tourist attraction were a movie, it would be called Howard and the Sixteen Angry Inches.

Howard — the moniker of the world’s largest gnome — is apparently 16 inches too tall for Saanich’s liking, but his new owner has no plans to cut him down to size.

“He is the Guinness Book of World Records, and I don’t plan of de-crowning him of his title,” said Rob Galey of Galey Farms. “Sixteen inches is nothing.”

— Wolfgang Depner, May 10

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