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.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Screen shot of a cabin somewhere in the Bulkley Valley from rare 1955 film footage of the area.
VIDEO: More rare film footage of the Bulkley Valley in 1955

Can you help identify the locations and/or people in these videos

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

An elderly woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past an advertisement for a television series in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. has been under a COVID-19 state of emergency for more than half the year

Province has been under a state of emergency for 32 weeks – and counting

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Tyrell Giroux was arrested by Williams Lake RCMP on Sunday, Oct. 25. (Facebook video screenshot)
Tsilhqot’in leaders call for suspension of officers seen in controversial Williams Lake arrest

Disturbing video demands an immediate, independent investigation, says TNG

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Most Read