It’s a dark stretch of Minnedosa highway, but up until last weekend, it was never deemed a safety concern for pedestrians.
Now police, the town and event organizers say they will look at ways to secure Highway 262 along the Rockin’ the Fields of Minnedosa music festival site, after a man walking on the shoulder was killed by a vehicle early Monday morning.
The highway, also locally known as the beach road, runs along the entrance to the annual classic rock music festival on one side. A campground, where many concertgoers choose to stay, is on the other side.
The festival weekend is one of the few weekends of the year when there is heavy pedestrian traffic in the area.
Shawn Cooper, 25, was walking along the road with a 23-year-old woman when a vehicle struck the pair, kept driving and hit another pedestrian, a 44-year-old Winnipeg man.
Cooper died after he was transported to hospital, while the other two were treated and released.
Charges in relation to the fatal crash are pending against a 37-year-old man who remains in custody until his next court appearance Thursday.
Police consider alcohol to be a factor in the tragedy.
Rockin’ the Fields president Darcy Bialas said there’s never even been so much as a close call on the highway in the 11-year history of the festival.
“You have concerns about everything and you try and address everything,” he said.
The festival has a shuttle service in place to ferry concertgoers to and from the campground.
But Bialas said in light of the incident, more can be done and the conversations have already started.
“We’re looking to develop some kind of walking path that is off the highway so no one has to walk on the highway at all.”
There is already a walking path, but it doesn’t run the length of the road.
Bialas said organizers are going to see the family, who are supporters of the festival, this morning.
“Every one of our directors is very upset with what took place and our deepest condolences definitely go out to the family,” he said.
“It was a very tragic event that was a really sad moment to wrapping up what we would have considered one of our most successful festivals yet.”
The Brandon Sun reached out to the family, who declined to comment.
Minnedosa Mayor Ray Orr said he personally would like to see temporary speed limit changes during the long weekend festival, which drew more than 2,000 people per day this year.
“I certainly think it would be very prudent to see if something can be done,” Orr said. “You can never prevent everything from happening, but we could do something to lessen the chances of it. I would expect that would happen.”
Area Staff Sgt. Mike Hengen of the RCMP said beach road isn’t heavily used for most of the year, so the lighting is poor. But the shoulder is wide on both sides, giving walkers enough room.
“I don’t know what can really be done to prevent this,” he said. “We’re looking at it as an isolated incident.
“From what we gather for this incident, everyone was over to the side of the road as far as they could toward the grass edge.”
Nonetheless, he said police are open to ideas on how to make the stretch of road safer.
There were several RCMP checkstops on Beach Road, Hengen said, and cops routinely patrol the area.
He said it was otherwise a quiet weekend for police.
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