The February 2020 deaths of three Sooke men who drowned in the Sooke River after their vehicle was swept away by the fast-running water were ruled accidental by the B.C. Corner Service in a report released Wednesday.
Investigators said there is no evidence foul play or intoxication was involved.
Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, disappeared on Jan. 31, 2020, sparking a massive ground and air search.
The 2004 Dodge Dakota pickup truck they were riding in was discovered in the fast-moving Sooke River on Feb. 2, about one-kilometre downstream from the lower parking lot at the Sooke Potholes Regional Park entrance. The bodies of Mills and Blackmore were found the same day. Jensen’s body was found two days later, downstream from the pickup.
The report said it’s believed the three best friends were “puddle-jumping” the truck along Sooke River Road, which was covered in fast-moving water due to a heavy rainstorm.
Puddle-jumping is a popular pastime for Sooke youth when the river overflows and involves people driving their vehicles through large pools of standing water to see the water spray up along the sides of their vehicles.
The river had risen more than six metres that weekend, and the force of the running water was enough to pull the vehicle into the river and prevent self-rescue, the coroner said.
The coroner recommended access to the parking area leading to Sooke Potholes Regional Park be closed every night and during times of flooding.
The District of Sooke has implemented the recommendation.