More than twenty feet above the current level of the Sooke River, large pieces of debris litter the parking lot at the Sooke Potholes. The water level was at least three feet deep in the parking lot on Friday evening and the parking lot had effectively become part of the river. (Tim Collins - Sooke News Mirror)

More than twenty feet above the current level of the Sooke River, large pieces of debris litter the parking lot at the Sooke Potholes. The water level was at least three feet deep in the parking lot on Friday evening and the parking lot had effectively become part of the river. (Tim Collins - Sooke News Mirror)

Story of fatal misadventure emerging from Sooke River search for missing men

Two men killed, another still missing after torrential rains swell river

On Friday night, three young men from Sooke – Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen – left Jensen’s parents’ home in a Dodge Dakota pickup and disappeared.

By late Saturday morning, the community banded together with scores of residents mobilizing a search for the men.

On Sunday morning, the truck was found wedged in the trees and underbrush on the banks of the Sooke River, about a kilometre downstream from the Sooke Potholes lower parking lot.

Later on Sunday, the bodies of two of the young men were recovered downstream of the truck, but the third man was still missing at the time of this posting.

Police have not released the names of the dead men, and the search continues for the third, with the help of Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue and others.

RELATED: Sooke in mourning

Sooke RCMP and the B.C. Coroner’s are still attempting to piece together what happened on Friday night that led to the men’s deaths, but a picture is beginning to emerge.

It started with torrential rains in the region and when combined with high tides, raised the water level in the Sooke River to near unprecedented levels.

Standing in the first parking lot at the Sooke Potholes, longtime resident Maureen McKenzie believes she knows what happened.

“The water here was about 20 feet higher than it is right now. When that happens, people come down here (to the Sooke Potholes) to see the water. If they came down here late Friday, when the water was high, in the dark they may not have even realized what they were getting into. People do it all the time. I’ve done it,” McKenzie said.

“It’s tragic. Those poor boys. They graduated with my son, and it could just as easily been my son and some of his friends.”

Richard Thut, another resident pointed to the debris scattered across the parking lot and up the slope at the side of the road.

“On Friday night, the water here would have been several feet deep, full of logs and other debris and it would have been flowing fast,” Thut said.

“This parking lot would have essentially become part of the river. Get into it, and you’d be in real trouble.”

It’s an assessment Shauneen Nichols of the Ladysmith SAR Swift Water Team confirmed.

Her team was in kayaks on the Sooke River on Monday morning, helping to search for the missing man.

“People don’t realize the incredible power that flowing water has. Water that’s below your knees can still knock you off your feet. And if you’re in fast moving water it can pin you up against logs or rocks and there’s nothing you can do,” Nichols said.

“I think this is a case of the three young men, out for an adventure. It’s so sad.”

Still hopeful, she said her team will search the entire stretch of river in the hope that there may still be a chance to find the third young man alive.

“I’ve been doing this for 12 years and miracles can happen,” Nichols said.

Another group, the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team, arrived from Nanaimo to help in the search.

Sooke RCMP Staff Sgt. Brett Sinden said it doesn’t appear there were any suspicious circumstances involved in the case, nor any indications of impairment due to drugs or alcohol.

“This is such a terrible situation, particularly in a small town like Sooke, but it tells you something about Sooke that so many people came out on Saturday to help with the search,” Sinden said.

He stressed the high level and fast moving water in the Sooke River does represent a hazard, and he urged residents to exercise extreme caution when venturing near the water.

Esquimalt–Saanich–Sooke

 

Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue services continued the search for a missing Sooke man on Monday morning. (Tim Collins - Sooke News Mirror)

Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue services continued the search for a missing Sooke man on Monday morning. (Tim Collins - Sooke News Mirror)

Richard Thut says that the Sooke River had risen to unprecedented levels during the past weekend. (Tim Collins - Sooke News Mirror)

Richard Thut says that the Sooke River had risen to unprecedented levels during the past weekend. (Tim Collins - Sooke News Mirror)

Just Posted

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
Island First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

“We need to get to the root of what is actually happening with the RCMP and our communities”

Oak Bay resident Hugh Thompson died Friday, May 7. (GoFundMe photo)
Oak Bay dad dies mountain biking near Shawnigan Lake

Community rallies around family with online fundraiser

The Regional District of Nanaimo has its sights set on busing to the Cowichan Valley in time for March 2022. (News Bulletin file)
Bus link between Nanaimo and the Cowichan Valley expected by next March

Unallocated transit hours already in Regional District of Nanaimo budget

Test positivity rates in Greater Victoria from April 23 to 29. (BC CDC data)
Leaked data shows View Royal top of COVID-19 list for Greater Victoria

View Royal mayor says week was a blip for the township, not the norm

The medical clinic building in Port McNeill. (Bill McQuarrie photo)
Solution pending to Port McNeill health care uncertainty?

The town appears to be ‘closer to a new and sustainable medical model for our town’

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike on Snowbirds plane during training in Comox

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

Carter Woods was first across the line at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, Saturday in Altstadt, Germany. File photo
Cumberland mountain biker wins World Cup race in Germany

First Canadian on the podium since 2013

BCIT. (Wikimedia Commons)
BCIT apologizes after employee’s ‘offensive and hurtful’ email leaked to Métis Nation

BCIT says employee’s conduct has been investigated and addressed

The Village on Third in Nanaimo won the Judges’ Choice award as top overall entry at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards. (Photo submitted)
Top developments north of the Malahat honoured by Vancouver Island Real Estate Board

Nanaimo’s Village on Third takes top honour at VIREB Commercial Building Awards

Most Read