News events in Abbotsford in 2018 included (clockwise from top left): the fatal shooting of Jason Dhaliwal on Jan. 19 on Promontory Court, a plane going off the runway at Abbotsford Airport in February, poor air quality due to the smoke from wildfires in September, and a fire at Capt’n Crunch Recycling in June. (Abbotsford News file photos)

Abbotsford 2018: A year in review

These are some of the stories that captured headlines over the last year

JANUARY

– The city continued to pick up the pieces after 42 hours of freezing rain coated Abbotsford in ice in late December. Although the ice melted relatively quickly, and power was restored for most of the 160,000 around the region who had lost electricity, city parks crews would spend several months picking up the pieces around town.

– Maan Farms’ “Goatel6” was destroyed in fire, but a trio of baby goats barely a week old were spared. The goats had been let out for the first time earlier in the day, before fire ripped through their home.

– Twenty-four-year-old Lovepreet (Jason) Dhaliwal was killed Jan. 19 in a targeted shooting in the 3500 block of Promontory Court. The shooting took place in the same area where Ping Shun Ao, 74, was struck with a stray bullet in 2015. Charges have not been laid in either incident.

READ MORE: 24-year-old Lovepreet Dhaliwal ID’ed as victim in targeted Abbotsford shooting

– A blast at a Sumas Mountain quarry triggered a landslide in late January. The slide was the result of a controlled explosion meant to clear land from Lafarge Canada’s quarry on the south side of the mountain. The incident wasn’t publicly revealed until a reporter from The News noticed the new scar on the hillside.

FEBRUARY

– Abbotsford lost seven per cent of its urban tree canopy in the last decade, according to a new report for the city. Coun. Patricia Ross said the city needed to take prompt action to halt its deforestation.

– Abbotsford West MLA Michael de Jong finished fifth in the BC Liberals leadership race, with Andrew Wilkinson winning the right to head the party. De Jong was the first choice of 44 per cent of members. De Jong and Wilkinson had urged their supporters to make the other candidate their second choice, a pact that helped the latter candidate.

– At least two people were taken to hospital, but nobody was hospitalized, when a plane went off the runway at Abbotsford International Airport. No one among the 10 people on board the Island Express Air plane was seriously injured. The crash took place on a day in which new owners signed a memorandum of understanding to buy the airline. The company passed a Transport Canada review later in the year.

READ MORE: Airline passes Transport Canada review after February plane crash

MARCH

– It was revealed that a filing mistake had let Jarrod Bacon out of jail 16 months too early, according to the Parole Board of Canada. Documents from the parole board said Bacon was let out of a Quebec prison on statutory release in February 2017, well before his June 2018 release date. His release was suspended in July 2017 after he breached his conditions, including by visiting a strip club.

READ MORE: Gangster Jarrod Bacon mistakenly released from prison 16 months too early

– A senior spent six days in a hallway as congestion problems continued at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. Administrators said they were sorry about the man’s situation, and expressed optimism that the space crunch that has afflicted the hospitals for years would be alleviated soon.

– The province announced that two new supportive-housing projects with a combined 80 homes would be built in Abbotsford. One project would be operated by the Lookout Housing and Health Society, the other by the Elizabeth Fry Society. But while Mayor Henry Braun said he hoped the projects would be completed by the winter, neither is operational as 2018 draws to a close.

Sandeep Singh Kaila shows off his Guinness World Record skill of spinning a basketball on a toothbrush, as he holds it in his mouth. (Abbotsford News file photo)

APRIL

– The City of Abbotsford released its plans to increase walking, cycling and transit use with a two-decade, $350 million road plan. Some of the projects included widening Fraser Highway and George Ferguson Way, improving east-west connections through the city and contributions to interchange projects on Highway 1.

– Justice Heather Holmes rendered her decision on April 20 that Gabriel Klein – the man charged with the 2016 double stabbing at Abbotsford Senior Secondary – was unfit to stand trial due to his mental-health issues. The matter was referred to the B.C. Review Board to determine in another few months whether Klein was still unfit.

READ MORE: Man charged in Abbotsford school stabbing found unfit to stand trial

– Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun officially announced his intention to seek a second term on April 20. He cited continuity in the role and the opportunity to implement planning work that is nearing completion as motivating factors to run again.

– Abbotsford resident Sandeep Singh Kaila showed off his skills with a basketball and a toothbrush to the News on April 25. The local owns the Guinness World Record for the longest duration of time spinning a basketball on a toothbrush. He spun the ball for 60.5 seconds to establish a new record and spent much of 2018 seeking to further distance himself from his competitors.

MAY

– The City of Abbotsford’s request to repurpose two large chunks of farmland into industrial development was rejected, meaning parcels of land in Bradner and just north of the Abbotsford International Airport will remain in the Agricultural Land Reserve and remain off-limits to non-farm users.

READ MORE: ALR decision aftermath

– The Canadian Elite Basketball League announced its impending arrival in Abbotsford, with the local club being one of six teams from across Canada to play a 20-game schedule starting in 2019. CEBL executives said the popularity of the sport in the region and the Abbotsford Centre venue were key factors of the decision to land in Abbotsford.

– The national office of Habitat for Humanity terminated the membership of its Upper Fraser Valley affiliate, which led to the closure of its ReStore location in Abbotsford on May 12. The acting CEO stated that the branch had overextended itself financially.

READ MORE: Habitat for Humanity Upper Fraser Valley to close its doors

– The Abbotsford Police Board announced on May 29 that Mike Serr would take over as the new chief after the retirement of Bob Rich on Sept. 30. Serr had previously spent 26 years with the Vancouver Police Department, and joined the Abbotsford Police Department in 2015.

JUNE

– Local accountant Eric Nyvall announced his bid for Abbotsford’s mayor’s chair, stating his desires to improve safety, address economic issues and offer a progressive environmental policy. Nyvall proved to be the top challenger to Braun’s bid for re-election.

– Capt’n Crunch Recycling went up in flames on June 19, sending large plumes of smoke billowing that were visible across Abbotsford. It was later determined that a vehicle on fire at the property led to the large blaze, which destroyed the business that started in Abbotsford back in 1971.

READ MORE: Large fire at Abbotsford auto wrecker

– Foundry Abbotsford officially opened its doors on June 19, with 16 different organizations coming together at the facility. The aim of the facility is to provide a single stigma-free place where youth aged 12 to 24 can seek help without encountering barriers that have deterred some in the past to get the support they need.

Tarps hung from a balcony partially obscured an investigation being undertaken at the Consort Court home of Sukhpreet Grewal, 32, who was found dead in the residence on July 20. (Abbotsford News file photo)

JULY

– It was a tragic Canada Day. Sohan Singh Sidhu, 65, died after he fell out of the back of a pickup truck that had left the annual parade. And Tanner Henderson, 20, died in hospital a few days after an apparent accidental shooting at a home on Birch Street.

READ MORE: Elderly man dies after falling out of pickup truck following Canada Day parade

READ MORE: Abbotsford shooting victim, 20, dies of his injuries

– Mathew Pernosky, formerly of Abbotsford, received a life sentence – with parole eligibility set at 11 years – for killing his half-sister, Rachel Pernosky, in March 2013 by suffocating her. He killed her in Mission and then took her body to his Abbotsford home before dumping her in Chilliwack.

– An official groundbreaking ceremony took place on the site of Abbotsford’s new $152 million courthouse on Trethewey Street just east of Clearbrook Library. The project is expected to be complete in late 2020 and will house 14 courtrooms, including eight provincial and three Supreme.

– Abbotsford recorded its third homicide of the year on July 20, when the body of Sukhpreet Grewal, 32, was found in his home on Consort Court after a family member reported he had been missing. No charges or arrests have yet been made.

READ MORE: Investigation ramps up at home of Sukhpreet Grewal, found dead in house

A small plane crashed after the Abbotsford Airshow had ended up for the day on Aug. 11. (Abbotsford News file photo)

AUGUST

– Gagandeep Dhaliwal, 19, was identified as the victim of a fatal shooting on Aug. 4 at his home in 2000 block of Wilerose Street. Another man was injured in the incident. This was the city’s fourth homicide of the year. No arrests or charges have yet been made in the case.

READ MORE: Police identify man, 19, killed in Abbotsford shooting

– The In It Together program, which provides services to help steer at-risk youth away from gangs and crime, announced that it was losing federal funding as of Sept. 30. The first opportunity for the program to regain funding is in April 2019, but there is no guarantee that it will come through.

– A small plane crashed after the Abbotsford International Airshow had ended for the day on Aug. 11, sending five people – the pilot and four passengers – to hospital. One person was in critical condition, but survived. The 1930s de Havilland Dragon Rapide was part of the Living History Flights offered as part of the airshow.

READ MORE: 5 injured in plane crash following Abbotsford International Airshow

– A GoFundMe campaign was started to raise money for the expenses of the family of Abbotsford’s Autumn Carlson, now 12, who was in need of a double-lung transplant in Toronto. Autumn had survived leukemia, but an infection she developed during treatment had resulted in severe damage to her lungs.

SEPTEMBER

– Abbotsford (and the rest of the Fraser Valley) was subject to an “unprecedented degradation of air quality” – according to the Fraser Valley Regional District – mainly due to smoke from wildfires.

– The man charged with fatally stabbing Letisha Reimer, 13, and seriously injuring another girl, 14, at Abbosford Senior Secondary in November 2016 was again found unfit to stand trial, five months after a judge initially made that ruling. The B.C. Review Board heard that Klein was continuing to suffer from severe psychosis and “disorganized thinking.” Another hearing on the matter is scheduled for Jan. 15, 2019.

– Bob Rich retired Sept. 30 after a 38-year policing career, including 10 years as the chief of the Abbotsford Police Department. New chief Mike Serr now leads the department.

READ MORE: Retiring Abbotsford Police Chief looks back on career

Investigators gathered outside the CIBC bank on South Fraser Way and Clearbrook Road where Mandeep Grewal was gunned down on Oct. 18. (Abbotsford News file photo)

OCTOBER

– After B.C.’s first four-year terms for local government, Abbotsford residents weren’t sick of their politicians just yet. The only non-incumbents to be elected to council and school board on Oct. 20 were familiar faces – former mayor Bruce Banman on council and former trustee Korky Neufeld on school board.

READ MORE: Candidates reflect on election wins – and losses

– Varinderpal Gill, 19, of Abbotsford was gunned down in a Mission parking lot on Oct. 3, in part of the Lower Mainland gang conflict. Shortly after that shooting, a vehicle was found burned out in Abbotsford. The shooting came shortly after the Abbotsford Police Department warned the public that being near Gill could be dangerous.

READ MORE: Abbotsford youth Varinderpal Gill ID’ed as Mission homicide victim

READ MORE: Abbotsford murder victim was brother of slain gang leader

– Mandeep Grewal, brother of slain gang leader Gavinder Grewal, was killed in a brazen early-evening shooting outside a bank on South Fraser Way on Oct. 18. Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) spokesperson Cpl. Frank Jang said it was fortunate no one else was injured in the shooting.

Jagvir Malhi, 19, was killed in a shooting on Nov. 12 near Ross Road Elementary. Police said he was not involved in gangs, but knew people who were.

NOVEMBER

– An Abbotsford maternity nurse was killed in a two-car collision in Surrey on Nov. 4. Sarah Dhillon, 50, also the wife of an Abbotsford Police staff sergeant, was driving a Ford Escape when she was struck head-on by a Jeep Cherokee that had crossed the centre median. Passenger Paige Nagata died two weeks later.

– University of the Fraser Valley student Jagvir Malhi, 19, was killed in an afternoon shooting near Ross Road elementary on Nov. 12. IHIT said Malhi’s death was related to the Lower Mainland gang conflict, but not because he was involved in gangs. Rather, he was associated with people involved in gangs, police said.

READ MORE: Murder victim Jagvir Malhi was not involved in gangs, says IHIT

– An Abbotsford News freedom of information request revealed the extent of unpaid debts written off by the Fraser Health Authority – more than $16 million over the last six years. That compares with about $100 million in revenue from non-residents over that same time period.

DECEMBER

– An Abbotsford News freedom-of-information request revealed that 20 students had been suspended over a “fight club” at Robert Bateman Secondary School after the Abbotsford School District denied the existence of such a club at the school.

READ MORE: Abbotsford school suspended 20 students for ‘fight club’

– Letisha Reimer, the 13-year-old killed in a stabbing at Abbotsford Senior Secondary School, can now be publicly named after The News challenged a publication ban that was issued by the B.C. Review Board. A representative of Reimer’s family said that the family felt “muzzled” by the ban.

– Autumn Carlson, 12, received a double-lung transplant in Toronto on Dec. 16. She is expected to remain in Toronto for several months while she recovers.

– One of the most damaging windstorms in a couple decades tore through the Lower Mainland on Dec. 20, knocking out power for hundreds of thousands, including tens of thousands in Abbotsford. In Abbotsford, winds were recorded gusting up to 112 km/h – enough to get a fine on some highways.

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