Lila Casey (right), the oldest of 16 children raised in the Chilcotin, and her nephew’s wife Rochelle Binette are hoping other communities in Canada will learn from the tragic death of David Jeff during the Williams Lake wildfire evacuation. Angie Mindus photo

Family of B.C. wildfire victim wants better emergency preparedness for vulnerable people

Williams Lake’s David Jeff “fell through the cracks”

The family of wildfire evacuee David Jeff is hoping his death won’t be in vain.

Jeff’s sister Lila Casey and her nephew’s wife Rochelle Binette would like to see communities across Canada learn from their tragedy and include their most vulnerable citizens in better emergency preparedness planning in the future.

“He fell through the cracks,” said Binette. “It was really hard because, if you remember at the time, the roads were closed in all directions and families were split up and it was difficult to get a hold of anybody.”

Casey said she wasn’t even aware her brother was missing after the city evacuated.

Read more: Community saddened by news of David Jeff’s death

“Hopefully this can bring awareness to other family members or anybody in a situation like this.”

Jeff was a member of the community of Tsi Del Del (Redstone), but lived much of his life on the streets of Williams Lake.

He suffered from mental illness and alcoholism, which the family believes was the result of years of abuse in residential school at the St. Joseph’s Mission, where he was molested.

Casey remembers her brother, one of 16 children born to Thomas and Lily Jeff, as a quiet and content boy growing up who loved water and spent his summers swimming, picking berries and fishing.

“He was a happy young boy. He was very protective of us, and when he went fishing and caught a fish he’d eat very little because he wanted the younger ones to have more to eat than he did.”

Casey said as a young adult she saw her brother change.

“He kept it all inside,” she said of the abuse.

“He wasn’t talking as much. Mom said she noticed that too.”

Read more: A life lost

Jeff was accepted for who he was in Williams Lake, and spent a lot of time in Boitanio Park where he could often be seen playing his guitar.

Casey said she is very sad about the circumstances surrounding Jeff’s death — that he was away from home, that they don’t know when he passed away and that he was located in a pulp mill settling pond.

“If I had known he was by himself I would have called around and tried to find somewhere for him to go,” said Casey, who lives in Hope. “I thought someone was with him.”

She feels her brother, who did not like the heat of Kamloops, was either looking for a way home or to escape the heat when he died.

The family said they are thankful for the support they have received from the BC RCMP, and also that of Tsi Del Del and the Canadian Red Cross who are donating money toward Jeff’s Celebration of Life.

“It was very kind and generous of them to offer help for the funeral arrangements,” Binette said.

That event will take place Friday, March 23 at the Longhouse in Williams Lake from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Everyone is welcome.

Read more: Remember the vulnerable during emergencies

 

The family of David Jeff, 67, seen here in September 2016 at Boitanio Park, is hosting a celebration of life Friday for the man, who was raised in the Chilcotin but became a familiar face in Williams Lake over the years. Angie Mindus/Tribune file photo

Just Posted

Chilliwack is home to Sasquatch, the first Canadian-designed hops plant

Created by Hops Connect, the Sasquatch hop is the country’s first patented hops plant

Retro meets modern design with idea for iconic Paramount sign

Proposed Paramount Project plans for downtown Chilliwack unveiled Monday

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

Flight Fest to take off in Chilliwack once again

After a year-long break, Flight Fest is returning to the Chilliwack airport

‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin has died

Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn reports Franklin passed Thursday at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit

5 to start your day

RCMP evict Kinder Morgan protest camp, two girls go on a nighttime bus adventure and more

Italy says death toll will mount in Genoa bridge collapse

Authorities worried about the stability of remaining large sections of a partially collapsed bridge evacuated about 630 people from nearby apartments.

Former CIA Director: Trump worked with Russians and now he’s desperate

In an opinion piece in The New York Times, John Brennan cites press reports and Trump’s own goading of Russia during the campaign to find Democrat Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.

Church sex scandal: Abuse victims want a full reckoning

Since the crisis exploded in Boston in 2002, dioceses around the country have dealt with similar revelations of widespread sexual abuse.

Baloney Meter: is flow of asylum seekers at Canada-U.S. border a ‘crisis’?

“I think any time you have a government that allows 30,000 people over the course of a short period of time to come into Canada illegally, the impact that that has, that is a crisis,” said Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

VIDEO: Baby in hospital after truck crashes into Surrey home

No official word on the infant’s condition, but police say the 57-year-old man who was driving the truck is in custody

Altidore nets 3 as Toronto drubs Whitecaps 5-2

Vancouver falls 7-4 on aggregate in Canadian Championship final

Ottawa intervenes to get B.C. ball player, 13, to Little League World Series

Before immigration issue was resolved, Dio Gama was out practicing the game he loves Wednesday

Most Read