Photo taken from a surveillance video being used in a civil suit filed against the Kelowna RCMP.

Kelowna’s year in review – September 2020

A look back at the biggest stories in September

  • Jan. 1, 2021 11:00 a.m.

Smoke from United States wildfires prompts air quality statement for Okanagan

Despite a quiet year in B.C. for wildfires, the province didn’t escape heavy smoke, after blazes in the United States impacted air quality levels.

Winds overnight on Sept.7 blew smoke north from fires, particularly in Washington.

Smoke from Washington, Oregon and California became trapped below the inversion.

A special air quality statement from the ministry of environment was issued for the Central, North and South Okanagan regions.

The lingering smoke brought about more concern for those with underlying medical conditions or serious infections such as COVID-19.

At the time, the wildfires meant Vancouver’s air quality ranked as among the worst of the world’s major cities, along with that in Portland, Ore., and San Francisco.

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Surrey man handed life sentence for West Kelowna murder of common-law partner

Rama Gauravarapu was killed in her West Kelowna hotel room on July, 22, 2018. (Contributed)

A Surrey man was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 12 years in the murder of his common-law partner.

Tejwant Danjou was reduced to tears in a Kelowna Court on Sept. 14 as BC Supreme Court Justice Allison Beames delivered her decision on sentencing.

The former Surrey real estate agent was convicted of second-degree murder in August for bludgeoning Rama Gauravarapu to death with a wine bottle in a West Kelowna hotel room on July 22, 2018, while the two were on vacation in the area.

“This was a brutal, tragic and senseless killing,” Beames said.

“By all accounts, Rama Gauravarapu was a much-loved and respected mother, family member, friend and colleague.”

None of Gauravarapu’s family, who was present through most of the trial, was in attendance for the sentencing.

Danjou will spend the first two years of his sentence at the maximum-security Kent Institution in Agassiz, according to his defence lawyer. He will become eligible for parole in 2030.

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Kelowna Mountie at centre of UBCO wellness check investigation faces third lawsuit

Photo taken from a surveillance video being used in a civil suit filed against the Kelowna RCMP.

It was Sept. 10, when a third person filed a lawsuit against Kelowna Mountie Lacey Browning, accusing the constable of assaulting and threatening him in front of his five-year-old son.

Browning is currently the subject of a high-profile criminal investigation into a wellness check at UBC Okanagan in January, in which she was seen dragging nursing student Mona Wang down a hallway at her residence and stepping on her head.

Wang is currently suing Browning, the Attorney General of Canada, and the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor concerning the incident.

A second woman filed a suit against Browning shortly after Wang’s story made national news.

Fiona Read alleges Browning assaulted her after she sought help from the officer while walking home from a party in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2016.

However, the Attorney General of Canada recently supported Browning by seeking the dismissal of Read’s lawsuit by offering a staunch defence of the constable.

Cole Charles Vasko, came forward as the third person to make allegations against Browning.

Vasko claims he and his son were walking home around midnight after visiting a friend’s house on March 9, 2019. During their walk, Vasko had a brief altercation with a passing motorist who almost hit him and his son.

That motorist, unbeknownst to Vasko, called the police making allegations against him, causing a response.

Browning was one of the officers who attended the scene.

Without warning, the suit alleges, she grabbed Vasko from behind and threw him to the ground.

Alongside Browning, the lawsuit also names the Attorney General of Canada and B.C. Minister of Public Safety.

None of the defendants have filed a response and the claims have not yet been tested in court.

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RCMP seeking witnesses to fatal Peachland motorcycle crash on Highway 97

A fatal crash involving a motorcycle closed Highway 97 in Peachland for hours on Sept. 27.

The collision happened just after noon when a Chevrolet pickup entered Highway 97 from Hardy Street and was struck by a southbound Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Michael Odenbach, the rider of the Harley Davidson motorcycle involved in the crash, died at the scene.

Odenbach was in his 40s and the owner of Western Star Auctions.

Facebook filled with condolences for Odenbach’s family, as many remembered him as a great man who would be deeply missed.

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Michael Odenbach died on Sept. 27 in a motorcycle crash. Facebook.