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UPDATED: Ex-Christina Lake Fire Chief Richard Thomas dead after falling out of canoe at Moody Lake

Editor's note: Quotes from RDKB Area C Director Grace McGregor added as well as info about memorial.

The former fire chief of Christina Lake is dead after falling into a private lake while on his canoe on the morning of Aug. 9 at 9:30 a.m.

According to Barb McLintock of the BC Coroners Service, Richard (Dick) Arthur Thomas, 78, was in his canoe at Moody Lake cutting weeds when he fell out of the canoe.

"Our understanding, at this point is he had his canoe out and was working from it to try and cut back some of the weeds in the lake," McLintock told the Grand Forks Gazette.

"He fell out of the canoe and was not able to self rescue, whether that was because of the weeds or not, it's too early to say."

According to RCMP, Thomas' body was later located approximately 15-metres from shore and about three metres under the water's  surface.

He was not wearing a life-jacket or personal flotation device and B.C. Ambulance and the Christina Lake Fire Department were called to the scene.

The recovery was especially difficult for the fire department considering its ties with Thomas.

"Dick's been a prominent member of this community for all of his life. I took over as fire chief here in 1990 from Dick and he had been the fire chief here for 14 years before that," explained Christina Lake Fire Chief Ken Gresley-Jones.

"It was a difficult call for this department because everybody knew him and it was the Christina Lake Fire Department that recovered the body."

According to Gresley-Jones, Moody Lake is a man-made lake – made by Thomas – and is on Thomas' property, approximately three-kilometres west of Christina Lake.

Regional District of Kootenay Boundary Area C Director Grace McGregor also had known Thomas for a long time.

“He was fire chief for a long time and my husband was a fire man out at Christina Lake for 30-something odd years,” she said. “The one saving grace on this is Dick loved the outdoors and he loved to do what he was doing. He loved his little lake up there, he spent a lot of time there, so I guess you could say he passed on doing what he loved,” she explained. “Having said that, it’s just  a tragic loss for Christina Lake too.”

With the summer here and many heading out to beaches and lakes, McLintock is imploring people to wear personal flotation devices or life-jackets if going out on the water.

“Over the last six weeks, we’ve had a lot of tragedies and a lot of them involved people who are not wearing life-jackets,” she said.

Gresley-Jones said a memorial would take place in October with more details to come at a later date.

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