Carolyn Maxwell, a Coroner in the Province of British Columbia, recommends that the District of Sooke continue “restricting public access to the parking area leading to the Sooke Potholes Regional Park by maintaining a daily schedule of closing the gate at the approach to the parking area each evening and re-opening it in the morning. During times of flooding, consideration should be given to leave the gate closed so that access to this area is prevented until the flooding has subsided.”
The recommendation comes in a recently released report examining the events that resulted in the deaths of three young men from Sooke. Eric David Blackmore (20), Anthony Jacob Jensen (20) Cory Martin Mills (20) were tragically swept away in their 2004 Dodge Dakota truck on the evening of January 31, 2020; each died of drowning.
According to the report, the incident occurred as the men were “puddle jumping.” Puddle jumping involves driving through puddles to see how high the water splashes up the side of the truck. Instead of a puddle, the truck ran through a pool of water that “was in fact an extension of the Sooke River, having overflowed its banks and flooding the road and parking area at the entrance to the Sooke Regional Potholes Park.” The water was running high and fast, large trees were being carried by the water, and the force of the water was strong enough to move some of the concrete barriers.
“The force of the running water was enough to pull the vehicle into the river and to prevent self-rescue,” writes Maxwell. She also found that drugs or alcohol were not contributing factors. “Toxicology was performed and found nothing of relevance to this incident.”
The 63.5 hectare Sooke Regional Potholes Park along the Sooke River is owned and managed by the Capital Regional District. The park is known for its rocky pools and canyon-like features and is a popular destination for hiking and swimming.
At the time of the fatal incident, the gate was open.
Since April 1, 2020, the District of Sooke has taken on the responsibility for the area and have someone opening the gate in the evening and re-opening it in the morning.