As seen on CTV News by Michele Brunoro on October 29, 2021.
New information has come to light in the electrocution death of a Kent, B.C., woman and her two dogs six years ago, and it’s raising more questions from the victim’s family about what happened.
The new details are emerging as the District of Kent responds publicly to a CTV News investigation published last week that revealed allegations of lies and a cover-up, and concerns a live power line may have come down days before the accident with no action taken.
Shirley Nate, 60, was out for a walk when she was electrocuted by a downed power line in a field near a popular walking area in Kent on Oct. 18, 2015. Severely burned, she died five weeks later.
CTV News has obtained a document that a source alleges is an “Occurrence Report” written by Richard Kroes, an employee at the Kilby Historic Site.
The document claims Kroes contacted the District of Kent about a downed line days before Nate was electrocuted.
The document states Kroes was approached by a man Oct. 14, 2015, who “reported a power line being down,” although the man said it was a “dead power line” and “not dangerous” and that he knew this because he had “handled the line.”
The report goes on to say that on Oct. 15, 2015, Kroes contacted “Agassiz Public works to report, that (he) had a gentleman report a downed power line on the dike that runs along beside the Kilby campground.”
Nate was electrocuted three days later, on Oct. 18.
Both Kroes and his employer declined an on-camera interview with CTV News.
“We’re just in shock at what we’re hearing,” said Nate’s sister, Laura Nichols.
“It’s very disturbing.”
The new information seems to support what former Kent public works employee Dave Morris told CTV News.
Morris, along with another man CTV has agreed not to identify, also allege the district knew about the downed power line and say the issue was raised in a staff meeting on a Friday, two days before the accident.
“It’s been covered up. It’s been covered up,” Morris said in an earlier interview with CTV News.
The men claim after Nate’s electrocution, the district tried to cover up what it knew, holding meetings with public works staff, something the District of Kent denies.
A source provided an audio recording of what they say occurred in one of those meetings.
A man’s voice can be heard saying in part that “on I believe it was a Friday…I had a call from Richard, the guy that works at Kilby…he told me… ‘Oh by the way, there’s a tree down on your dike’…he only mentioned the tree at that point. No mention of any downed wires or anything like that.”
In response to CTV’s report last week, the District of Kent, which initially refused to comment, has publicly issued a statement saying that “On the Friday, October 16 preceding the incident, the District’s Public Works’ staff were made aware of downed trees in the area, not power lines.”
The news release goes on to say that the district “denies all claims that staff were told to lie by management. The District staff member who worked in the area on the Friday, reported a tree down on the dike, which was discussed at the Friday meeting.
“Following the long weekend, on Tuesday staff were told to provide the facts, and not their opinions, to the RCMP’s investigation.”
The release says that the district “has fully cooperated in the investigation with the RCMP. As the matter is currently under litigation, the District will rely on the investigation evidence provided by the RCMP to Crown Counsel for our legal court system to adjudicate.”
The full release from Kent can be found here.
Nate’s parents have filed a lawsuit against the district and BC Hydro. Both Kent and BC Hydro have denied any wrongdoing.
RCMP investigating Nate’s death had forwarded a report to the Crown, but no charges were approved in the case. Neither RCMP nor the Crown will say what charges were recommended or whether they involved the District of Kent.
CTV News requested an interview with the RCMP. They refused, saying there “was a thorough investigation” and there is “no new evidence.”
Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth was also not willing to be interviewed.
“I understand this is a matter before the courts and therefore I cannot speak directly to it,” he said in a statement. “Any allegations of criminality must be made to the police of the jurisdiction.”
All this has left Nate’s sister more frustrated than ever.
“We’re just dumbfounded and it’s really hard to get answers from anybody. We’re just really at a brick wall,” Nichols said.
Meanwhile, an online petition has been launched asking for a coroner’s inquest into Nate’s death.
Nichols says that given the allegations that have surfaced, she questions the accuracy of a statement in the coroner’s report on her sister’s death that says no one had reported the downed lines prior to the accident.
Nichols says an inquest may be the only way to find out what happened.
“There’s got to be some closure on this. Let my sister rest in peace,” she said.