The deaths of three men whose truck was swept into the Sooke River last year during heavy rain have been ruled accidental, according to a B.C. Coroners Service report released Thursday.
Sooke residents Eric David Blackmore, Anthony Jacob Jensen and Cory Martin Mills, all 20, were likely “puddle jumping” in a 2004 Dodge Dakota belonging to one of them when the truck was swept away.
They were believed to be driving near the lower parking lot of Sooke Potholes Regional Park, which had flooded with several feet of water, the report said. The large pools created by rainstorms in the lower parking lot often attract local youth, who drive their vehicles through the water for fun.
The men went missing on the night of Jan. 31, 2020. The truck was found on Feb. 2, once the rain had subsided and water levels dropped, on the banks of the nearby Sooke River. It was wedged between trees and brush about one kilometre downstream from the park’s lower parking lot, and had suffered significant damage.
The bodies of Blackmore and Mills were found submerged in the Sooke River, two kilometres downstream from where the truck was located. Jensen’s body was found a short distance away.
The report says that what the men may have believed to be the lower parking lot was actually an extension of the Sooke River.
Flows that were strong enough to move concrete parking barriers and uproot trees swept the truck and its passengers into water too deep to manage and the men drowned, the report said.
Alcohol was not a factor. Autopsies were performed on the three men, with accidental drowning deemed the cause of death in each case.
The incident prompted new regulations for the gate that cuts off road access to Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, which was previously often kept open at night.
Following the incident, the province agreed to lock the gate every night at 9.