Clockwise from top left: From the memorial for Shaelene Bell who was missing for four months before she was found dead, a serious fire at the Newmark Apartments on Victor Street, an anti-vaxxer flyer some people mistakenly thought was distributed by MP Mark Strahl, flooding on the Sumas Priaire. (Black Press file)

Clockwise from top left: From the memorial for Shaelene Bell who was missing for four months before she was found dead, a serious fire at the Newmark Apartments on Victor Street, an anti-vaxxer flyer some people mistakenly thought was distributed by MP Mark Strahl, flooding on the Sumas Priaire. (Black Press file)

The Chilliwack Progress’s top 25 most-read stories of 2021

Revisit some of our most popular stories of the past year

From Barry Neufeld to Molson Coors to Fairy Creek, from floods to fires to COVID, here’s a look at the most popular local stories that appeared on The Chilliwack Progress website in 2021.

1. Body of missing Chilliwack 23-year-old mom found

Shaelene Keeler Bell’s body was found on June 2 in the Fraser River near Coquitlam, more than four months after she went missing on Jan. 30 in Chilliwack.

2. COLUMN: Women are scared, and maybe they have a right to be

Reporter Jessica Peters’ opinion piece after the disappearance of more than one woman from the area in early 2021.

3. RCMP say missing women cases in Chilliwack and elsewhere are not connected

In the wake of the disappearance of Shaelene Bell from our most-read story of 2021, and Jessica Peters’ column on the subject, the third most read story of the year was about the RCMP response to people on social media jumping to conclusions about missing women.

4. Well-known Chilliwack homeless man says ‘thank you’ to firefighters for building him a shelter

‘James’ was a homeless man recognized by many people who saw him for years, most recently sleeping on Vedder Road, on the sidewalk outside the BC Liquor Store in Sardis.. Then Chilliwack firefighters built him a wooden structure to protect him from the freezing winter elements.

5. Chilliwack school trustee asked to resign by peers, lights up cigarette in meeting

Chilliwack Board of Education Trustee Barry Neufeld lit up a cigarette during a public meeting after an in camera meeting where the board asked Neufeld to resign for repeated unprofessional behaviour and bigoted comments.

6. Shooting leaves two dead following murder-suicide in Chilliwack

One woman and one man were found dead following a murder-suicide in a townhouse complex on Watson Road near Watson Elementary School on April 15.

7. Complaints come in about the look of Molson Coors Fraser Valley Brewery site

The landscaping was looking a little barren around the Molson Coors Fraser Valley Brewery site in Chilliwack, but the company promised more beautification efforts were coming in the spring.

8. Anti-vaxxer flyer distributed to Chilliwack residents did not come from local MP

A number of residents complained to The Progress about a double-sided yellow flyer received on or around Nov. 26 that a number of people believed came from Strahl. But no, the anti-vaxxer flyer filled with conspiracy theories did not come from Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl.

9. Serious apartment fire downtown Chilliwack

The Chilliwack Fire Department battled a large blaze at the Newmark Apartment complex on Victor Street on Sept. 3. At of the end of the year, the building was still under repair.

10. Same day well-known Chilliwack homeless man gets shelter built he is taken to hospital

James made it into our top 10 twice in 2021. With increased focus on him after Chilliwack firefighters built him a structure, Fraser Health intervened and the man was taken to Chilliwack General Hospital for assessment.

11. Body found under Menzies bridge in Chilliwack that of man in 20s

RCMP were on scene at Menzies Street in Chilliwack where a body was found under the bridge over the Hope Slough. The body was that of a man in his early 20s and his death was not considered suspicious.

12. Mother of missing Chilliwack woman makes public plea

Shaelene Bell’s mother made a plea asking for the public’s help in finding her daughter. Alina Durham spoke with media on the afternoon of Feb. 2 about her 23-year-old daughter, who went missing on Saturday, Jan. 30.

“Shaelene left her two small boys at home with a friend,” Durham said, her voice breaking. “Anyone who knows Shae knows that she would never, ever abandon her boys.”

13. Province shuts down Highway 1 at Abbotsford due to rising flood waters

Highway 1 was closed Nov. 15 in Abbotsford as police reported at about 5:30 p.m. that the flood waters had breached the highway east of Whatcom Road. The closure was necessary due to rising waters on the Sumas River and was in both directions between Sumas Way (Highway 11) and No. 3 Road.

14. ‘Wild ride’ for first baby of 2021 born at Chilliwack General Hospital

Arriving into the world 23 hours into 2021, Dylan Mikael Ondevilla was pretty late to be Chilliwack’s New Year’s baby, but was actually four days earlier than expected.

15. Chilliwack church pastor found guilty of accessing of child pornography

The former executive pastor of Main Street Church was found guilty of accessing and possession of child pornography. Sitting in the front row of the courtroom, John Vermeer showed no reaction as Judge Andrea Ormiston read the guilty verdict on April 30.

16. Anxious Chilliwack shoppers empty grocery store shelves

While many Chilliwackians flocked to gas pumps on Nov. 16, many more poured into grocery stores to snap up supplies. With Highway 1 closed to the west, locals feared food may run out, and panic buying saw customers emptying shelves.

17. IIO investigating after man shot by police near Vedder River in Chilliwack

A man shot by police on Jan. 12 after an alleged domestic dispute suffered serious injuries and the Independent Investigations Office of BC began an investigation. Shortly after 7 a.m. that day Chilliwack RCMP responded to a complaint of a man threatening and injuring a woman inside a home. The woman escaped and the man also left the property but continued to send “concerning messages and threats.” David Bardwell was charged with four offences and is scheduled for a four-day trial starting June 22, 2022.

18. 140-year heat record shattered in Chilliwack Saturday

The blistering heat on June 26 was Chilliwack’s hottest day on record, at a sweltering 40.9 C. Records for the community go back 140 years, to 1881. In all those years, the hottest day recorded previously was July 29, 2009 when it reached 38.3 C. That record went on to be broken June 27 and again June 28 when the mercury hit 43 C.

19. Three now dead after RCMP try to stop vehicle heading wrong way on Highway 1 in Chilliwack

A head-on collision on Highway 1 in Chilliwack claimed the life of two people fleeing police and also an innocent corrections officer on his way to work at Mountain Institution in Agassiz. Because the driver was fleeing police it triggered an investigation by the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia, a watchdog agency of police actions.

20. Chilliwack Realtor reported missing dies in car crash in Texas

A Chilliwack Realtor who was in Texas for a football game and was reported missing died in a fatal car crash. Aaron Tschritter and one other man died in an early-morning crash when the vehicle they were in hit an electric pole on Nov. 25 on the Good Latimer Expressway in Dallas, Texas.

21. Chilliwack pump track, longest in North America, nears completion

The largest pump track in North America, located in Chilliwack, was nearing its completion in January. The freshly installed asphalt track goes up and down mimicking the surrounding Cascade Range. Artificial turf was also put in along with a tunnel/bridge feature.

22. New travel restrictions mean Fraser Health is leaving Hope behind

It’s the junction of three highways, the gateway heading east into British Columbia’s Interior and heading west into the Lower Mainland, but where does Hope rightly belong? A government spokesperson said in April the move to make Hope part of the Interior/Northern Health region was recommended by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

23. Still searching for 22-year-old missing near the Fraser River in Chilliwack Monday

More than a day after friends, family and emergency responders searched for a missing young man on the banks of the Fraser River, there was no sign of him. Jess Austin Nadin, 22, was dropped off by a relative at the river to go fishing at Ballam Road at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 13. His body was found a little more than a week later.

24. Chilliwack resident angered after Canada Post employee leaves community mailbox unlocked

A Chilliwack resident was disturbed by what he called “incredibly sloppy work” from a Canada Post employee. Neil Davis lives in a complex on Evans Road. The community mailbox for the complex is on Evans Road and was left unlocked more than once.

25. Chilliwack man back from Fairy Creek: ‘RCMP brutalized us but loggers were worse’

Josue Anderson, 31, returned home at the end of September from the Fairy Creek logging blockades “filled with gratitude” that the injunction granted by the courts in April to private logging company Teal Jones, was not extended. He spent a week at the protest site near Port Renfrew, actively defending what has been called the last intact stand of the old-growth forest on Vancouver Island.

READ MORE: Black Press Media’s Top 25 most-read stories of 2021


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