Jonker remembered as dedicated rugby coach

A Smithers man whose death in custody is being investigated has been remembered as a rugby-lover who helped establish the sport locally.

A Smithers man whose death in custody is being investigated by B.C.’s police watchdog has been remembered as a rugby-lover who helped establish the sport in Smithers.

Jacobus Jonker died in a Victoria hospital on Feb. 21, five days after he lost consciousness after a physical struggle with officers at the Smithers RCMP detachment.

The 53-year-old had been arrested at a Smithers residence at about 10:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day.

Friends and rugby enthusiasts last week paid tribute to Jonker, a South African ex-pat known as Cobus, who lived with his family in Smithers.

An avid rugby-lover, Jonker and fellow South African Alan Slate helped introduce the sport to Smithers Secondary School in 2011.

By 2013 there were 35 boys and 30 girls enrolled in the sport at SSS, making it one of the most popular sports at the school.

As head coach, Jonker led SSS teams to the B.C. Summer Games, provincial matches and regional tournaments.

With Jonker and Slate leading the sport, Smithers also hosted a regional rugby “sevens” tournament.

In Oct. 2013, he spoke of his dedication to the growth of the sport in Smithers.

“We can only go forward,” said Jonker.

“As coaches we see it as a challenge to grow the sport.”

Bulkley Valley School District superintendent Chris van der Mark said the volunteer coach would be missed by the school’s students.

“Our thoughts are with the family,” said van der Mark.

“He’s provided years of service to our kids, to our program and he captured the hearts of a lot of kids and he’ll be missed.”

Smithers Rugby Club spokesperson Kala Hooker spoke highly of Jonker’s contribution to the sport.

“Cobus was a dedicated community coach who loved rugby and wanted to take rugby to a new level of excellence in northern B.C.,” said Hooker.

“He had been working with others to develop a rugby dedicated field.

“He brought his passion for rugby to the community at a time where there was a transition and it was truly needed.”

Jonker’s death is being investigated by the B.C. Coroner’s Service and the Independent Investigations Office of B.C.

According to IIOBC, which investigates police-related deaths or serious injuries, Jonker was in emotional distress when officers arrived at a Smithers residence on Feb. 14.

He was pepper-sprayed for resisting arrest and shortly after reported having difficulty breathing.

After being cleared by ambulance workers who were called to the scene, Jonker was cleared for travel to police cells.

It was there that IIOBC said a struggle took place after he became uncooperative.

Jonker lost consciousness and was transported to the Bulkley Valley District Hospital before being transferred to Victoria for a higher level of care.

He died in hospital on Feb. 21.

 

 

Just Posted

Search and Rescue needs more funds to finish new facility

Bulkley Valley Search and Rescue Group meets at Ranger Park building but have outgrown the space.

VIDEO: Smithers get its first augmented reality sandbox

Locals got to experience a bit of augmented reality last Wednesday

A diabetes information session will be held this Friday

Smithereens will get a chance to learn more about type I and type II diabetes this week

Kanna Kurihara leads Otters in Prince George

Kanna Kurihara, 10, turned heads at the meet with superb technical abilities in 100 freestyle win.

Wintergold weekend

One of the oldest Christmas craft fairs in Smithers is this Friday and Saturday.

Man linked to Shuswap farm where human remains found to appear in court

A rally will be held on the Vernon courthouse steps prior to Curtis Sagmoen’s appearance

B.C. snow plow operator helps save elderly man

The 73-year-old man had fallen at his isolated home, and finally was able to call for help

Wildlife group challenges B.C.’s interpretation of law on destroying bears

Fur-Bearers are challenging a conservation officer’s decision to kill a bear cub near Dawson Creek

Tourism numbers continue to climb in B.C.

The majority of international travellers to British Columbia are coming from Australia

Canadian screen stars want ‘action’ from industry meeting on sexual misconduct

‘Of course there’s been sexual harassment here. Absolutely. No question.’

VIDEO: Search for missing B.C. dog walker remains a ‘rescue effort’

Annette Poitras was last seen walking three dogs on Monday afternoon

Accused in violent Kamloops burglary charged with attempted murder

Accused in violent Kamloops burglary, home invasion charged with attempted murder; victim remains in hospital

Cannabidiol products available in Summerland

Products contain medical benefits of cannabis, but with no psychoactive properties

Most Read