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Great West Newspapers: A Year in Review

Here are some of the stories that topped the charts for the Great West Newspapers family in 2020.

While COVID-19 dominated 2020, there were other news events in the markets served by Great West Newspapers (GWN).

Here is a look back at the top breaking, human interest and pandemic-related stories from all nine media outlets in the GWN family.

Tragic crash

The Rocky Mountain Outlook reported on July 18 a tour bus had crashed at the Columbia Icefields. The crash killed three people and injured 14 more. The fatal incident occurred when a Columbia Icefield Adventure tour bus, with 27 passengers on board, rolled over and then down an embankment leading to the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park.

Alberta RCMP reported on Dec. 24 that there will be an update into the investigation in the spring of 2021.

Uplifting duet

Alberta Prime Times shared one of the most uplifting musical performances of the year on June 6: a duet of Andra Day's Rise Up by Jordan Rabjohn and his mom, Katherine Hallam.

The video had more than 2.3 million views on YouTube.

Sniff test

Airdrie Today shared the story of a psychologist and neuroscientist on April 25 who was developing a peanut-butter sniff test for research into detecting loss of smell in otherwise asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19.

Dr. Dana Small said a test using simple ingredients found at home could lead to early detection. She said even if just a small number of asymptomatic carriers with smell loss were identified, they could be flagged and prioritized for testing.

Class-action lawsuit

Cochrane Today reported Feb. 7 on a Cochrane couple who alleged mould in their home contributed to the death of their daughter on New Year's Eve 2018.

Kandace and Shane Yakemchuk filed a class-action lawsuit against a Calgary-based home builder after their 24-year-old daughter, Deja Fischer – who was diagnosed with asthma as a child – suffered a severe asthma attack on Dec. 5, 2018, and was taken off life support less than four weeks later. A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Yakemchuks and any current or former homeowners or tenants of Excel-built homes in the community of Heartland “who experience basement mould and/or moisture issues.”

Excel Homes replied by stating they were preparing a statement of defence and stated the claim “appears to be without merit.”

Citizen's arrest

Lakeland Today reported May 22 that local property owners had captured a suspect alleged to have been stealing a quad, and held him until police arrived.

The man was believed to have been one of two suspects who abandoned a vehicle earlier in the same area. RCMP confirmed a male suspect had been apprehended by a private citizen or citizens and was in custody.

Anti-racism rally

In June, Mountain View Today covered Innisfail's first-ever anti-racism rally, which was peaceful, but anger spilled over after the event wrapped up. Witnesses reported a sizeable group of pro-event participants and some anti-rally attendees engaging in profanity-laced yelling after the event's conclusion.

The rally had taken centre stage in the national spotlight, largely because of its location in the heart of conservative Alberta as well as early online backlash.

Scammer foiled

Okotoks Today reported Feb. 7 on a High River woman who caught a mobile phone hijacker before her personal information could be compromised.

Amanda Doherty received a text message stating her cell provider, Rogers, had received a request to transfer her telephone number to another service provider. Assuming it was a spam message, she did not click on or call the attached phone number. She then used her husband’s phone to call Rogers and soon discovered her number had already been transferred to Bell.

Doherty’s account had been closed, meaning her bill would be hit with cancellation charges for backing out of her contract before it was up. Rogers assured her those fines would be reversed.  Doherty then got an email saying her email address password had been changed. She said she quickly managed to freeze her banking and other vulnerable accounts before any money was taken.

Zoom faux pas

In May, St. Albert Today reported on a council meeting that went awry when one councillor forgot his mic was on. Coun. Ray Watkins apologized for saying he was going to “f---ing vomit” while unknowingly unmuted during the city’s first-ever digital public hearing held over Zoom.

The comment was made as a resident was presenting on how she thought a redistricting application for a development would damage St. Albertans' quality of life.

Thieves scared off

Town and Country Today reported May 7 that a homeowner was able to scare off four armed thieves who tried to break into his home northwest of Boyle in the Flat Lake area. The culprits fled the area in a truck with a trailer stolen from the property.

The homeowner followed them while calling the police, said Cpl. Dan Fenton with the Athabasca RCMP. The truck and trailer were later found abandoned.

Two men and two women were eventually taken into custody.