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UPDATED: Sweatman to be honoured in Manitoba

A school gym in Winnipeg will be named after Sheilah Sweatman, seen here near Nelson. - Teddi Sweatman photo
A school gym in Winnipeg will be named after Sheilah Sweatman, seen here near Nelson.
— image credit: Teddi Sweatman photo

A new school gymnasium in Winnipeg will be named after Nelson Search and Rescue volunteer Sheilah Sweatman.

The Queenston School gym committee and Winnipeg school division jointly announced Friday that the facility, expected to open this September, will honour Sweatman, who died on a volunteer mission in the summer of 2011.

“Sheilah grew up in River Heights and was an outstanding student, athlete, artist and community volunteer dedicated to serving others,” said Colleen McFadden, chair of the gym committee.

“Naming the gym in Sheilah’s honour will provide our students and young people with inspirational messages of community service and living life to the fullest.”

Queenston School was built in 1931 but lacks adequate gym space. The new 5,150 square foot gym will serve both student and community needs.

Sweatman’s father Wynn said the family was moved by the tribute.

“We are very pleased that Sheilah has been recognized in this way,” he said. “She was a fabulous young lady, strong in mind and spirit.”

He added his daughter was a “wonderful athlete, amazing snow boarder, cyclist, hiker, swimmer and dog sledder.”

A graduate of the University of Manitoba, Sheilah was also an accomplished artist. She donated her best work, Finding Me, made out of 256,000 puzzle pieces, to the Children’s Hospital Foundation.

The gym naming is the latest of several posthumous honours: Central Okanagan Search and Rescue named its new jet boat after Sweatman last summer, and a cairn is expected to be constructed in her memory at the North Shore hall out of stones contributed from each of the province’s search and rescue groups.

Sweatman, 29, drowned last June 29 while trying to recover a submerged vehicle in the Goat River near Creston.

A coroner’s inquest into her death is now scheduled to run from November 19 to 23 at the Nelson courthouse.

“The November dates are the earliest available in which courtroom space is available and all participants foresee they can attend,” the BC Coroners Service said in a statement.

The inquset was originally scheduled for this month, but was delayed “to ensure availability of all required witnesses as well as counsel for parties with standing.”

The hearing will be presided over by regional coroner Mark Coleman and a five-member jury.

On his website, Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward says he has been counsel for the Sweatman family since October 2011, when the inquest was first announced.

He said her death occurred during filming of the reality show Callout: Search and Rescue, and the tragedy was captured on video.

“Lawyers from the Ministry of Justice attended a pre-inquest hearing on May 22, but gave no indication that an adjournment was being contemplated by anyone,” he wrote.

“We had no opportunity to make any submissions on behalf of the family before receiving notice of the adjournment.”

The delay came as an “unwelcome surprise” to Sweatman’s parents and siblings, who had arranged to travel to Nelson from Winnipeg, Belgium, Calgary, and Vancouver, he added.

“The BC Coroners Service and the coroner apparently did not consider the family’s interests before postponing the hearing.”

WorkSafe BC and Emergency Management BC are also conducting their own investigations.

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