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Column: Sister shares story of Timberlands dirt biking tragedy

Family hopes the information will help it to never happen again
Simon Tozer was shot and killed while dirt biking in the Timberlands area near Ladysmith on Family Day. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Bonar)

By Sarah Bonar

Special to the Chronicle

This past Family Day, Monday, Feb. 21, tragedy struck our family. Our adored brother, husband, father, son, Simon Tozer (52) was dirt bike riding with his adult son and nephew uphill of the Timberlands Road pit. This is a very popular destination for off-roading and dozens of people, including many children, were out enjoying the day on dirt bikes, other off-road vehicles and hiking the trails.

Other groups could be heard further up the mountain firing guns, apparently this is not uncommon.

Shortly after 4 p.m., the three of them were riding single file uphill on a secondary logging road approximately 1.5 km uphill of the pit and 1.2 km downhill of the Fortis Natural Gas Facility when Simon, who was at the back, went down.

Within seconds, the boys noticed that he was not following, so immediately turned around to find him unconscious, unresponsive and bleeding. Initially they thought it may have been a heart attack. Emergency services were called, while first aid was initiated by his son and nephew.

Several people nearby heard their calls for help and came to assist. When RCMP arrived, they recognized that Simon’s injuries were not consistent with a bike accident or a natural medical cause, so the Major Crimes Unit out of Victoria was called in to take over the investigation. Simon was pronounced dead at the scene.

An autopsy was arranged and the coroner’s report concluded that Simon had died from a single gunshot wound to the chest. He would have lost consciousness in seconds. It is a cold comfort to know that he did not suffer.

No words can describe the horror, shock and pain of this event – it is life changing. Husband, father, son, brother, nephew, cousin, business partner, friend… he meant so much to so many; he was an exceptional man with so much more to look forward to in life. No words can express the rage we feel that someone took his life so needlessly.

We can only imagine that the gun was fired without intent to harm and perhaps ricocheted before hitting him. One must question the probability of a stray shot hitting a moving target in the heart – the odds seem incalculable.

At a minimum this is criminal negligence – when a person acts with disregard to obvious risks to human life and safety. There is no safe discharge of a weapon designed to kill in an uncontrolled environment. It could happen again if something is not done. The alternative is too hard to contemplate; that some deranged person lay in wait for an opportunity to intentionally do harm.

We have been informed that fatally hitting a moving target would take a high degree of skill…or dumb luck. We may never know what actually happened.

Our family would like to thank everyone who assisted on the scene, the RCMP and fire and ambulance attendants, we are grateful for your service. We would also like to thank the officers conducting the ongoing criminal investigation and hope that further evidence will emerge. Also, thank you to all of the people who have supported us through this difficult time and continue to do so. And finally, thanks to those who have posted condolences on social media – it helps to know that people care.

If you choose to use, or continue using, this area for recreational purposes, please beware of the dangers. It happened once; it could happen again. If you are one of the many who use this area for target shooting practice, we beg you to refrain, or at the very least, to please follow safety guidelines, as one life taken is one life too many.

We are sharing this information with the hope that no one in our community will have to go through a similar tragedy. We ask that anyone who has additional information about this incident, please call the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIIMCU) 250-380-6211 to help this investigation. If you have reports of near misses in this area or notice suspicious activity, please report it to the RCMP.

Police are looking to speak with anyone who may have been shooting recreationally in the area along Timberlands and Ninatti Road, in Ladysmith, in the afternoon of Feb. 21, 2022

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