This page was last edited Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Special Losses"

On this page you will find information about high profile, unusual, mysterious, or especially tragic deaths of Cassiarites. While everyone's death is sad, these cases stand out, as you will see.

Richard Forbes

Circumstances of the death of Richard Forbes are being investigated.

The Fort McMurray newspaper ran this story Friday, November 21, 2003

Man's death probed

The death of a local man this week left his colleagues at Laird Electric shocked and upset. The circumstances surrounding the passing of Rick Forbes, 53, are under investigation because the electrician died in hospital after being in the custody of RCMP. "There was no reason for this to happen," said Laird Electric president, George Schneider, adding that Forbes' colleagues remain unsure and confused about what led to his death. "He was an excellent person," Schneider said. "He was a valued employee and a hard worker and he will be thoroughly missed."

RCMP said the investigation into the incident is ongoing. Forbes' death is non-criminal in nature, a spokesman said. On Nov. 17, police responded to a complaint of a male lying on the ground in the parking lot of an apartment building, just off of Franklin Avenue. Forbes, who resides in Fort McMurray and recently bought a home in Lac La Biche, was taken to Northern Lights Regional Health Centre by ambulance for treatment.

He was later released into police custody. "While in custody the male was found to be in need of medical attention," said Sean Maxwell, a spokesman for the Fort McMurray RCMP. Forbes was then taken to the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre. He was later medevacced to the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton prior to passing away Nov. 18. Forbes worked in Fort McMurray, at Laird Electric, for more than eight years. He was the manager of quality assurance and quality control. Currently, Forbes' remains are with the medical examiner's office, in Edmonton, where the cause of death hasn't been established, pending further investigation and tests, said a spokesman there.

Follow-up: May 17, 2004. Following an investigation in the cause of Rick's tragic death a coroner has ruled the death an accident. It seems that the falls in the jail caused the death.

James Leckie, age 25, was tragically killed in a military training accident in Wainwright, AB on April 20, 1991. James resided in Cassiar from 1977 to 1982 and attended grades 7 to 11 at the Cassiar School.

At the time of his passing, James was survived by his wife Rita, parents Oliver and Colleen Leckie, brothers Dan Leckie (Barbara), and Bruce Leckie (Ursula), sisters Marvel Knudslien (Rick) and Connie Leckie, as well as nephews Travis and Jerrett Knudslien, and Adam Leckie.

Below is newspaper article by Mathew Ingram, Alberta Report Magazine, May 6, 1991 Edition

Camaraderie, tragedy An explosion kills an Edmonton militiaman

James Leckie was probably a typical member of the Canadian Armed Forces reserves: married for two years, the 25 year old St. Albert resident worked as an X-ray laboratory technician at the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton, played on a local hockey team and spent his weekends at Camp Wainwright, Alta., (200 kilometers southeast of Edmonton) training with the “B” Squadron of the South Alberta Light Horse regiment. Two weekends ago the young militiaman died there when a live shell exploded during a routine exercise.

According to Camp Wainwright spokesman Captain Michael Gilewicz the explosion occurred at about 5 p.m. Saturday evening, after the squadron had finished its training for the day. The exercise was a tank-training maneuver using the Cougar, a six-wheeled armored personnel carrier which comes equipped with a 76-millimetre cannon, and involved firing at a series of wooden targets. Private Leckie and another reservist, Corporal Charles Howie, were removing the targets after the exercise was finished when there was a sudden explosion. The blast hurled the two men into the air, killing Pte. Leckie instantly and sending Cpl. Howie to hospital with shrapnel wounds (he has since recovered and been released).

After a brief investigation, the camp determined that the explosion was caused when an 81-millimetre mortar round detonated near Pte. Leckie. It appears, says Capt. Gilewicz, that the 10-pound shell was a “dud” that had failed to detonate in an earlier exercise in the same area. Someone stepping on such a round as it exploded, Capt. Gilewicz says, “would likely lose both their legs and there wouldn’t be much of him left. From the available evidence, it appears Pte. Leckie was a short distance away when it went off.”

Pte. Leckie’s older brother Dan says the family was concerned when they found out that James had joined the reserves. “It kind of came as a surprise,” Mr. Leckie recalls. “We usually talk about things like that, but one day he just told us he’d joined up. I guess maybe he was worried about what we’d think. And we were a little upset, I suppose, because we thought it might be dangerous.” However, Mr. Leckie says, his brother was “just an adventurous kind of guy and this was obviously something he really wanted to do.” James had never shown any particular interest in the military before, adds Mr. Leckie. “I guess he just liked the camaraderie and adventure.” His brother, who had been in the militia for less than a year, had just graduated from basic training and been assigned to a squadron a few weeks ago.

Capt. Gilewicz notes that such incidents, though rare, are recognized as a “job hazard” when dealing with high-explosives in such circumstances. He says the camp doesn’t keep a record of how many men have been killed or injured there. “This is the West’s biggest and most frequently used training field – units from Thunder Bay, Ont. To Victoria come here – and it’s been used since the Korean War,” he says. The army goes to great lengths to try to remove all unexploded shells from its target range, he explained, by clearing the field away with bulldozers a few inches at a time, to a depth of up to six feet. Nevertheless, says Capt. Gilewicz, “it’s almost impossible to find everything… this kind of thing just happens from time to time despite all our best efforts.”

The camp spokesman says that the militia will be undertaking its own more exhaustive investigation over the next several months, which could make recommendations for procedural changes. Pte. Leckie, meanwhile, was buried last Thursday. A military honor guard and an army chaplain attended his funeral.


February 1991

Bruce, Dan, James and in front Adam Leckie, April 1990
Marvel Knudslien, Colleen Leckie, Rick Knudslien, James, Bruce and Oliver Leckie, 19890

Cassiar boys outing on the Liard River hit by tragedy in September 1954.

"In 1954 Father H. Huybers, the visiting Catholic priest, organized a trip up the Liard river for the older boys in camp. These were: Joe Van Raalte (12), Bobby Van Raalte (10), Walter Hanley (10), Matti Sorrel (11), Doug McKenzie (12 or 11). I can't remember if there was another boy or not. The adults included: Father Huyber, Frank (...?...) the owner/pilot of the boat (a flat-bottomed river boat about 25 - 30 feet long with an inboard motor and a wheel house located amidships), and one other male, Earl Wright I believe, the assistant storekeeper. The priest and the pilot were NOT Cassiarites. I believe they were both headquartered in Lower Post, BC. The wheelhouse of the boat had two doors, one on either side, port and starboard, secured with a single wing bolt adjacent to the door handle.

The trip started on a high note. We left Cassiar on the morning of Wednesday, September 1 and drove to Lower Post with a stop-over at Watson Lake, to load up on candy and fishing supplies. Most of us spent ALL of our money there. The day was sunny and warm. We arrived in Lower Post, stowed our gear on the boat, and headed upstream immediately. About 5:00 we set up camp, ate, went fishing, campfired for awhile and went to bed.

The next day, Thursday the 2nd, we continued. Got up, ate, broke camp, and continued upstream. We stopped occasionally to fish likely looking spots, and to burn off some excess energy. In the afternoon we stopped at a trappers shack to talk, and later saw an outcropping of raw coal at the river's edge. The evening was a repeat of the first day: set up camp, chop wood, build a fire, eat, go fishing, campfire, sing some songs, go to bed.

Friday the 3rd was our last outbound day. Repeat of yesterday. Saw moose, deer, beaver, fished and ate our catch, played, sang. Had fun! Evening was normal.

Saturday the 4th. Arose early. Ate, loaded the boat and headed downstream for Lower Post and home. An idyllic time. Then disaster struck at about 9:00 A.M. My brother Bobby, leaning against the left-hand door and fiddling with the wing bolt securing the door, inadvertently left the bolt in the 'open' position. A few moments later he stuffed his hands into his jeans pockets hiking up his parka on both sides and casually leaned against the unsecured door. The door flew open, and by the time Bobby freed his hands he was too overbalanced to help himself. Arms windmilling, he went into the river. His face only showed astonishment. It was my last look into his face.

Frank, the pilot, abandoned the wheel, ran to the front of the boat where the life vests were stowed, showed someone where they were and jumped overboard to try to help. It was later ascertained when his body was found a week or so later that he had surfaced into the propellers and died almost instantly. Now the boat was on its own course. Father Huybers went to the stern and fully clothed dove into the river to get Bobby. Meanwhile we were headed for the opposite shore at full speed. Doug McKenzie noticing our predicament grabbed the wheel, becoming our acting pilot.

It should be noted here that the Liard is very wide in this area, about 1/4 mile wide, very cold (4 or 5 degrees C.), and very fast (about 18 knots or 20 mph) with eddies, swirling currents, undertows, and sunken obstacles in the water. Also, being early September the mornings and evenings were parka weather, warming up to T-shirt weather only later in the day.

Continuing with our story... fully clothed in woolen priest clothing and wearing black soldier-boots, Father Huybers managed to grab Bobby and head for shore. At this time, with Doug at the wheel we swung by them without seeing them in the water. The stern of the boat struck Father Huybers on the head, stunning him momentarily. When he recovered his senses Bobby was gone - nowhere in sight. Father Huybers struggled to shore.

Meanwhile members of our party threw all the life vests overboard in a vain attempt to be helpful. We made a second pass of the area to no avail, then beached the boat as close to where we saw Father Huybers emerge as we could safely get.

All the while, I sat in the stern of the boat frozen in shock and disbelief. It all went by as a sort of slow-motion movie. On the last pass I (from the opposite side of the boat) saw Bobby's hand emerge from the water, slide over the side of the boat, then limply slide back into the river. That was it! Gone!

I was the first to reach Father Huybers. He sat on the ground, hugging his knees, leaning against a fallen tree, water dripping from him and shivering, repeating over and over to no one in particular, in a dead voice, "I had him. I had him. I had him." Then I knew for certain but still hoped against hope. (It took 6 weeks for Bobby's body to surface and be found by an Indian from Lower Post. His body was hooked on a log. The Indian and his story is a legend in Lower Post to this day. Bobby Van Raalte is buried in the Lower Post Catholic Cemetery)"

Contributed by Joe Van Raalte


Joe Bucar, long-time resident of Cassiar. He worked in the mill (floor walker & operator) and in the mine (shovel operator & mine shifter). Joe mysteriously disappeared and leaves behind his former wife Cary (nee Conder) and daughter Maria. Cary provided the following information.

"Joe is listed as missing and presumed dead since there has been no activity on his credit card or his bank account since 1994. Maria is presently pursuing having his estate settled. No easy task when she is the only one in a legal position to do this. It is very hard on Joe's family in Slovenia, too. His mother passed away five years ago without the rest of his family ever telling her what had happened. To the best of my knowledge his father is still alive.

The last time Joe was seen was in Red Deer, Alberta at the end of March 1994 when he turned in his rental car before going to the curling bonspiel. The RCMP have established he re-rented the car on 2 March, then turned it back in once more on 5 March. This leads me to believe he met someone at the bonspiel that he knew who offered him a shared ride. It may well be the police are actually looking for two single men rather than just Joe, someone who, like Joseph was from overseas and had no family ties in Canada. Very sad. The last thing I would wish on anyone. You hear about this sort of thing happening but never expect it to happen to you. For all our separation and divorce, I never held the situation against him. We just couldn't find a common ground once I finished growing up, as it were."

Cary Conder, July 27, 2001

UPDATE: Cary reported that on November 18, 2003 a judge ruled that in light of the information to him that Joe had clearly met his demise.

UPDATE: Newspaper article, December 6, 2003


joe_bucar_1988.jpg (21184 bytes)
Photo taken by Betty Liddle at dance in Rec Centre, 1988

joe_bucar.jpg (33347 bytes)
Photo taken by Herb Daum on Dease Lake about 1982

Curila, Tomislav "Tom", former resident of Cassiar and born in Clinton Creek, son of Steve Curila (Clinton Creek and mill shifter in Cassiar) and Inge Curila (Mill Lab tech in Clinton Creek and Cassiar) was killed instantly at age 27 on Nov. 27, 2000 in a horrific accident on the Trans Canada highway near Revelstoke, BC. A tour bus crossed into the path of a transport truck driven by Tomislav. Six lives were lost and 24 were seriously injured.


tom_curilla.jpg (16018 bytes)

wreck_scene_1.jpg (28136 bytes)
Wreck scene in the tunnel 

Fire claims 7 lives of the Pete family

It was a very cold morning on January 11, 1970 when a fire broke out in a cabin in Cassiar, BC at 4:45 am. The fire siren, normally used for the 5 pm whistle, woke up the town. The unusual time for the siren alerted residents that there was some kind of emergency situation. The volunteer fire department rushed to the site but were more or less stopped in their tracks by deep snow. The road to the house that was on fire had not been plowed and the firemen could not reach the site with the fire truck. Despite the snow the firemen did try their best to put out the fire and help save as many of the family members as possible.

The fire took the lives of the following family members from the Pete family: Cecilia Pete and her six children: Johnny, Yvonne, Emma, Markie, Morris Jr. and baby Louis (3 months old). The mother, Ceclia, was the daughter of Johnny Taku Jack (now deceased) and Rosie Dennis. They were all laid to rest at the Cassiar Cemetery on 1/ 17, 1970. 

Surviving the fire was Morris Pete, husband and father (now deceased). He was the son of Jack and Maggie Pete (both now deceased). Also surviving the fire were Florene Dennis and Mavis Pete, the eldest daughter of Morris and Cecilia. Daughter Brenda Pete, who was overnighting at the Loverin’s house at that time, was unharmed.

After that incident the town decided that the road to the village would always be kept open.

Information courtesy of Marge Loverin.


Angelo Pigatti and family perish in airliner crash

Angelo Pigatti, (a driller in the mine) his wife and infant daughter, residents of Cassiar, died on July 8, 1965 when Canadian Airlines Flight 21 enroute from Prince George to Vancouver, BC crashed 40 kilometres northwest of 100-Mile House. The cause of the DC-6B airliner in which all 52 lives onboard were lost has never been solved. Witnesses heard the crack of dynamite and saw the tail of the propeller-driven plane fall off and then saw debris trail from the rear of the cabin (the "debris" turned out to be people getting sucked out). The plane fell 5,000 metres. There was evidence of explosives found in the area of the rear lavatory. The accident investigation of the police became a criminal investigation. The RCMP never did indicate if a bomb was the cause of the explosion nor did they say if they suspected accident, murder or suicide. The final verdict - the RCMP reached the point in their investigation that the person responsible for the incident can never be identified so the investigation has been stopped.

Excerpted from public records.


angelo_pigati.jpg (11095 bytes)
Angelo about to board the mine bus.

Photo courtesy of Eric Johnson


Use links below to access various sections of this site.
Use the Contact Page (Home section) to contact webmaster Herb Daum.

Home Gift Shop In Memory Cassiar Photos News Trivia

All rights reserved