Each year I take a look through our online statistics to see what people are reading. As much as readers say they like good news features, what they most click on are car accidents and crime. I’d like to think that behind the scenes of the missing persons or the airlifts to hospital, there are neighbours rallying to help those affected by making dinners, picking up mail or feeding pets while those affected tend to their loved ones. It helps to think that with all the bad in the world there’s just as much good happening.
Our most-read story of 2016 was the discovery of human remains off Bowen Road. Nanaimo RCMP later confirmed the body belonged to that of Marlon Orozco-Castillo, 40, of Nanaimo, who had been missing for a significant period of time.
Coming in second was a crash that rattled homes in the Hammond Bay area when a driver crashed through a fence, drove through a backyard and a second fence, went down a short retaining wall before landing on a deck in the Vista View Crescent area. The photos highly contributed to the interest in this story.
At third on my list is the story Living in the aftermath of suicide, by John McKinley, who is the content editor for the Vancouver Island Free Daily. McKinley profiles Matt Dunae, also known as Sirreal, and his experience of losing family members to suicide and how he turned that grief into a message with his music.
If there ever was a good news story, winning the lottery is it. Nanaimo resident Bill Laharty did just that by pocketing $21 million from Lotto 6/49 in April.
Halfway through the list and we’re back to crime, with 63-year-old Talal El Bakkar facing a preliminary inquiry for four sex-related charges, including two counts of sexual assault. El Bakkar was ordered to stand trial in 2017 on those charges.
At No. 6, is the fire that gutted the Jean Burns building in downtown Nanaimo. On March 30, a bathroom fan in one of the units overheated, causing a blaze that took hours to extinguish and destroyed a heritage landmark in the city’s core. The gutted shell remains boarded up as the building’s owners and insurance company decide how to demolish the remaining structure and rebuild.
A swarm of bees isn’t inherently newsworthy until they end up on a car in a parking lot in a busy Nanaimo shopping centre. That’s just what happened when a woman returned from shopping at Value Village to find a swarm of honey bees stuck to the side of her vehicle. A local beekeeper was called in to find the queen and remove the swarm.
Early in 2016, a woman was robbed at the ATM at TD Canada Trust near Port Place shopping centre at about 9:30 p.m. Police soon caught the suspect, Michael Edward Eadie, 26, and later charged him with several counts of robbery. He was convicted shortly after his arrest with one count of use of an imitation firearm and one count of robbery for which he was sentenced to a year in jail.
The second car accident to make my Top 10 list of online stories happened on Nanaimo Parkway at roughly Jingle Pot Road and the East Wellington overpass. I would have liked to end my list with a happier story, but unfortunately our 10th most-read story of 2016 was a pedestrian killed on Bruce Avenue near Albion Street. Wanda Ann Gasper, 55, of Nanaimo was struck and killed by a driver who stayed at the scene and cooperated with police.