VERNON - The friend of a man found dead two weeks after being reported missing in the North Okanagan has more questions than answers about what happened.
Lumby resident Barry Romanyshyn first met Bruce Van Haastrecht in 2015 while building the 57-year-old’s house in Spallumcheen. They became friends, and spent time together at Van Haastrecht’s cabin on Mabel Lake.
“He was a really mellow, easy going guy. Just a chilled-out guy,” Romanyshyn says. “I envied the guy. He had fast cars and a cabin at the lake and a big custom house. He was retired at 57. It seemed to me he was living the dream.”
To his knowledge, Van Haastrecht owned a successful lawn maintenance company in Toronto, but had been living in the Vernon area for at least the past few years.
The last time Romanyshyn saw him was in October 2016.
“I was trying to get ahold of him this spring,” he says. “He told me to because we’d do some more work on his place and property.”
Romanyshyn and his wife were on their way to Mabel Lake to go fishing on Sunday, April 2 when they passed Van Haastrecht’s cabin and saw police and Vernon Search and Rescue. By then, authorities were on day two of their search for Van Haastrecht.
“I went over to talk to them. At the time they knew nothing about him,” Romanyshyn says.
According to a media release from the RCMP, officers went to his cabin on Saturday, April 1 to confirm his whereabouts. Mounties said they found evidence indicating he was at the lake’s edge prior to his disappearance, and brought in the RCMP dive team. Early in the search — which included extensive efforts by land, air and water — police said they suspected he was dead. It wasn’t until two weeks later — after police suspended their search — that Van Haastrecht’s body was found on shore by a cabin owner opening his property up for the season.
“I was pretty upset at how he was dead within 300 metres of his cabin when there were 40 Search and Rescue members, I don’t know how many RCMP, and helicopters and dogs looking and nobody found him? How do you not find a guy who’s dead on someone’s yard,” he says. “It’s a huge concern of mine. Was he even dead when they were doing the search? What if he died after?”
The RCMP have said little about the circumstances of Van Haastrecht’s death; only that foul play has been ruled out.
When contacted, a Cpl. Trevor Tribes, head of the Lumby RCMP, declined to comment because the file has been taken over by the B.C. Coroners Service. He said the file is no longer under the RCMP’s jurisdiction.
Regional coroner Larry Marzinzik confirmed the agency is investigating the death of a man found in the area of Mabel Lake, but would not give a name. He said the Coroners Service is not releasing any names while an internal policy review is underway.
Marzinzik added that no information on cause of death or other details would be released until the coroner’s report is complete. He could not say when that will be.
Romanyshyn wants to know how his friend died, and why it took so long for his body to be found. Those are questions that may or may not be revealed in the coroner’s report.
“It’s very strange to me. It just seems so bizarre,” Romanyshyn says. “It just makes me wonder, why the secret? What’s the mystery? Why is nobody talking about it? I think we have a right to know.”
That day at the lake, Romanyshyn says Van Haastrecht’s two dogs, a Cocker Spaniel and a black lab, were roaming the area.
“Bruce would’ve never left those dogs unattended. His dogs were like his kids,” he says.
Romanyshyn and his wife took the dogs home and adopted one. The other they made sure went to a good home. Romanyshyn has been in touch with Van Haastrecht’s kids, and hopes that some answers are eventually provided by the authorities.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.
We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.