Selkirk Employees Respond in New Denver’s Time of Need

Community Comes to Terms with Drowning Tragedy


Members of the Selkirk College counselling department were part of a team of professionals who helped deal with the fallout after the horrible tragedy on Slocan Lake last month that claimed the lives of four young people.

On May 10 four youths—Lily Harmer-Taylor (19), Jule Wildshire-Padfield (15), Hayden Kyle (21) and Skye Donnet (18)—were paddling a canoe north from New Denver to Rosebery when their boat overturned in the icy waters of Slocan Lake. None of the youth wore lifejackets and all four drowned in the accident. Hayden was a former ABE student at Selkirk’s Silver King Campus.

Counsellors in New Denver

Four youth drowned in Slocan Lake near New Denver last month.

With the tight-knit community of New Denver reeling in shock from the tragedy, experts in the field of counselling were in demand and three Selkirk College employees answered the call.

Todd Solarik—who is the Learning Skills Coordinator on the Castlegar Campus—went to the community the day after the accident to help prepare administrators and teachers for how to deal with students who were set to return to school on the Monday.

“I was there to give them the strength so they could hold it together for the kids who were coming in on Monday,” Solarik says. “Shock can look different to different people. From numbness and being overwhelmed, to being quite emotive. There is no right response.”

Tragedy Rocks Tight-Knit Community

Solarik has worked in the public school system in the past and has experience in situations similar to the one that took place in New Denver. With no formal agreement in place between Selkirk College and the school district, Solarik was on hand to provide whatever assistance was required.

“When you are an outsider going in to support the community you are not as triggered as much by the loss,” he says. “Sometimes external people can work through the trauma response and provide support so they can be there for the people.”

Solarik worked in New Denver for three days over the three weeks following the tragedy. Selkirk counsellors Tami O’Meara and Robin Higgins also spent time the community providing their expertise.

After the first two weeks, Solarik says the young people in the community began to get back to their routine and at that point it was the adults who needed the support. Solarik says a small community like New Denver never really recovers from such a horrible event.

“It hits everyone… there are 600 people there so everybody knows everybody,” says Solarik. “It seemed that everybody in the community tried to contribute in some way because it impacted everyone.”


Learn more about Selkirk College’s counselling services.