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Students seek notoriety with monstrously big stunt

Kelowna
Kelowna's Bennett Bridge offered commuters a spot of confusion Monday afternoon as an annual hoax, believed to be from engineering students, was suspended.
— image credit: Sean Connor/Capital News

It was no Volkswagen over the Golden Gate bridge, but at the end of the day, UBCO engineering students can allegedly lay claim to one well-hung Ogopogo.

Suspended from the middle of the new William R. Bennett bridge, Ogopogo’s neck stood tall and proud over the front of the Maria, a 16-foot motorboat used to hold the beast over Okanagan Lake.

“No one has come forward to let us know who has done it,” said Jackie Nichols, external co-ordinator for the UBCO Engineering Undergraduate Society. “Pranks and stuff like that aren’t endorsed by the society.”

The UBC Engineering Undergraduate Society in Vancouver is famous for its ridiculous stunts, which Nichols believes began when the EUS stole the Stanley Park Nine O'Clock Gun gun in 1969.

Arguably the most famous stunt, however, was executed in 2001 when UBC students received international recognition for hanging a red VW Beetle's frame off the Golden Gate bridge.

As the department is very new in the Okanagan, the first of such stunts for the Interior only began last year when a large foam E was suspended from the bridge, forcing contract crews into a difficult cleanup.

Nichols said the students generally don’t accept responsibility as the stunts are frowned upon—and in some cases illegal—but that there is method to their madness.

“(It’s) to get the name of UBC Okanagan out there about our engineering program in the Okanagan Valley,” she said, adding “you probably wouldn’t get as much attention from doing other (sanctioned) things.”

Nichols, a Masters student in the department, said engineers are known for their ego and engineering students across the country try to reach new heights with the ingenuity of their pranks.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure did not see it in quite the same light. Spokesperson Murray Tekano said it cost thousands to remove the boat and its occupant.

“This is not something that in any way, shape or form tickles my funny bone,” said Tekano.

Tekano said the ministry had to close a lane of the bridge mid-Monday, bring in a crane, and lift the boat a small amount to ease tension on the cable it was suspended by so it could be cut down without injuring the crews overseeing the task.

“Certainly, if it is, as has been told to me, the engineering students, these are people who are supposed to be training to do good things for society,” he said. "I would hope they would put their skills to better use.”

In 2009, five students were arrested for attempting to hang a car off Vancouver's Ironworkers' Memorial Second Narrows Crossing during Engineering Week; a portion of the car had plunged into the water when the stunt went awry.

This week is also Engineering Week in the Okanagan.

RCMP said, as the boat in this week’s incident was suspended closer to the west side of the bridge, an RCMP officer from the West Kelowna detachment went to the scene.

As of 11:30 a.m. Monday, RCMP media relations indicated police would be following up with the UBCO engineering students, tipped off by the large red “E” scrawled on the boat.

The director of the department was away from the office.

Tekano said the boat will be destroyed.

jsmith@kleownacapnews.com

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