Kimberly Chastellaine shared an image of her grandparents from a family album. Silvio Strussi (right) went to work on January 30, 1970 and died in an industrial accident that caused the machine he was operating to tumble into the Muchalat Lake, near Gold River. (Submitted photo)

Kimberly Chastellaine shared an image of her grandparents from a family album. Silvio Strussi (right) went to work on January 30, 1970 and died in an industrial accident that caused the machine he was operating to tumble into the Muchalat Lake, near Gold River. (Submitted photo)

Closing a 50-year-old wound on a remote Vancouver Island lake

50 years after logger’s death, grandchildren set out to find his final Muchalat Lake resting place

The remains of Silvio Strussi have been lying at the bottom of the Muchalat Lake since 1970 when he died in an industrial accident.

Today, after 50 years, Kimberly Chastellaine and Sean Smith, have set out to get closure by finding the spot where their maternal grandfather died.

On the evening of Jan. 30, 1970, their grandfather died in an industrial accident that took place on the north Vancouver Island lake near Gold River. Strussi, 40, was part of the road-building crew with the now defunct Tahsis Company and was operating a caterpillar tractor when it tumbled into the lake.

Despite search efforts by navy divers called in from Esquimalt there was no luck finding him. He was declared dead after seven days based on the “overwhelming evidence that he was not coming out of that lake.” Strussi’s body was never found.

Chastellaine and Smith’s mother was 16 when Strussi died.

“For mom, it was a spot in her life where it was so shocking because he wasn’t sick. He went to work and went into a lake, and there was no body; there was no closure or any of that,” said Chastellaine.

Her grandmother had a tough time too. She passed away eight years after Strussi died. Her body was cremated and the ashes were spread in Muchalat Lake because the family wanted to reunite her with her husband.

Although Strussi died seven years before Chastellaine’s birth, the 43-year-old former RCMP dispatcher said both she and her brother felt a “deep emotional pull” from within to go find Strussi’s final resting place.

“I truly think this is our last chance to find him,” said Chastellaine. “We want to find that spot for our children because if we don’t mark it they’re never going to be able to find it, if they try to find that spot for any reason in the future.”

Armed with a couple of newspaper clippings from the ‘70s and a death certificate that she obtained from her mother, Chastellaine began chasing the ghosts of the past.

“I just want to find the location on the lake and memorialize the spot and death certificates don’t exactly give GPS coordinates,” she said.

She contacted the forest museum, filed for information from official sources, and even reached out to the logging company that currently operates in the area. After months of research she decided to message the Gold River community group on Facebook for “local knowledge.”

To Chastellaine’s luck, the incident is still etched in many a Gold River resident’s memory. She ended up getting more information in two days than all her months research.

People shared relevant information, including leads on where the exact spot may be.

“Some people say that on calm days when the lake is flat you can still see oil bubbles coming to the surface from the machine that he was operating,” said Chastellaine.

After speaking with several community members, she now has a general idea of what part of the lake the incident occurred. Some Gold River residents even offered to mark the spot.

“I’ve had two people from the Facebook group who have offered to escort my brother and me to the spot when we go over to Gold River,” she said.

Chastellaine and Smith live on the Lower Mainland and plan to visit Gold River this month. They will also be reaching out to the Mowachaht Muchalaht First Nation for permission to memorialize the spot on their territory.

ALSO IN NEWS: Missing mushroom picker in northern B.C. found dead

Gold River

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wild Wise Sooke is pushing to get local waste management companies to hop on board to provide bear-resistant bins as an option for residents. On Nov. 23, Sooke council voted to write a letter of support for Wild Wise to send to companies such as GFL Environmental Inc. and Sooke Disposal Ltd. (Black Press Media file photo)
Wild Wise Sooke continues push for bear-resistant bins as option for residents

Bins could cost anywhere from $150 to $300 or more, according to 2019 study

Goldstream Gazette is holding the first annual Local Hero Awards ceremony on the West Shore on June 18. Deadline for nominations is on May 2. (Arnold Lim/News Staff)
Nominate your West Shore hero today!

Submit your application to one of 12 different categories before Jan. 4

Island Health has reported a COVID-19 outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Four new COVID-19 cases added to Saanich Peninsula Hospital outbreak

Inital round of patient testing is complete, staff testing continues

A rendering of Victoria Wonderland, a drive-thru immersive holiday experience that has been cancelled due to COVID-19. (Courtesy of Transcend Victoria)
Victoria Wonderland drive-thru show cancelled due to COVID-19

Organizers hope to host a similar event, if restrictions allow, in the new year

Swiftsure International Yacht Race 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Popular Swiftsure yacht race cancelled for second consecutive year

International sailing race hopes to run its 77th event in 2022

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

(AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)
POLL: Has COVID-19 changed your plans for the holidays?

The lights are going up, the stacks of presents under the tree… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 1

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Watch Messiah at home with the Sooke Philharmonic

Concert available to stream Dec. 12

Emergency crews used a backhoe loader to clear fire debris from the scene of a fire on Wesley Street Thursday as police and firefighters gathered up propane tanks, stoves and fireplaces used by camp residents to heat tents. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo dismantles downtown homeless encampment after fire

Four to six tents burned up in Wesley Street fire Thursday, Dec. 3

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

BC Ambulance Services reassures people that the service is well staffed and ready to respond. Photo by Don Bodger
BC Ambulance assures the Island community they’re ‘fully staffed’

‘Paramedics are not limited to a geographical area.’ — BCEHS

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read