Boat Crash in Stave Lake

(A page from Ted Jago’s scrapbook. Many black and white photos of a small house floating on a barge on the lake and the surrounding forest.

In the mid-20th century, Stave Lake was a popular logging site for the Abernethy and Lougheed Logging Company. Loggers would take their felled logs to be stored in the booms in the lake, and later floated them down the river to one of the many lumber mills in the Lower Mainland to be processed. Ted Jago recorded many of his memories as a logger through the 1950s and 1960s in a scrapbook, and notes a particular incident in February of 1954 where he claims to have been the last man to see a group of boat crash victims alive.

            It started on a Tuesday morning when Jago and his companions were still on the lakeshore, preparing to head out for a week of logging in the nearby woods. Jago noticed a group of five men out by the docks, speeding around in a little cabin cruiser boat. Jago warned the men, “Well, you better tell that fellow at the wheel to slow down, or you may never see the camp [at the head of the lake].” He then writes in his memoir “Over the following years, I wished I had never said that.” After the young men had waved their goodbye, Jago hoped to himself that they would heed his warning and keep their speed low in the lake’s upper channel.

            Midday on the following Thursday, an RCMP tugboat sailed by the men as they were returning from a morning of logging, and inquired with Jago’s party as to whether they’d seen a boat of five men aboard. The boat the police were searching for was found later that day with none of the men in sight, and so Jago and many other logging parties working on Stave Lake joined in the search. The search carried over into the next day, though a heavy snowstorm over the night made it very difficult to search along the nearby woods. Eventually, all five men were found, four in the water just feet from where their boat had crashed, and one who had managed to swim his way to shore, but had not survived due to the cold.

            It was suspected that despite Jago’s warnings, the men hadn’t stopped speeding along the lake, and had run into a stump in the shallows that punched a hole in the hull. In the crash, the door had been blocked by a heavy barrel, and so the men had needed to break their windows in order to exit, but had fallen directly into the freezing water. Over the next day, the loggers had abandoned their work to help retrieve the bodies from the water, and managed to gather all five to be returned home for proper mourning.

            One thing Ted Jago notes is that, at the time, the community had no knowledge of the loggers’ help in finding and retrieving the five missing men. Whether it had been by some error or ignorance, their contributions had not been mentioned in the local news when the incident was reported. This acknowledgement of the loggers’ efforts may be arriving almost 70 years late, but we hope it’ll do, Ted.

This blog post was researched and written by Camryn Page, SFU.

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