The death of a 14-year-old boy has stunned the small First Nation community of Waywayseecappo.
On Friday afternoon, the teen was riding his bike along the highway just west of the community when he was struck by a vehicle travelling in the same direction.
According to RCMP, the vehicle tried to swerve out of the way of the cyclist who swerved into the vehicle lane. After the unresponsive teen was transported to hospital, he was pronounced dead.
Troy Luhowy, principal of Waywayseecappo Community School said the teen’s passing in such a small community will make for a tragic start to the school year.
“He would have friends coming back and relatives,” he said.
“He would have cousins coming back and the Grade 7 kids were his friends, too. He’s friends with everyone there.”
Luhowy, who has been the principal of the school for four years, has already started preparation for counselling for the returning students as Labour Day quickly approaches.
The 64-year-old driver involved is also a Wayway resident, which has added to the area’s grief, Luhowy said.
The death has shaken the community of 2,500 people and two residents who were on scene after the incident were too grief-stricken to comment when the Sun reached out to them.
“Everyone’s stunned,” Luhowy said. “Everyone that I talked to is in disbelief.”
Meanwhile, the young man’s death has rehashed concerns about the safety of Highway 45 near Waywayseecappo.
Longtime band councillor Tim Cloud said the government made a pledge a number of years ago to make Highway 45 safer for pedestrians and cyclists on the road.
“(Then-Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson) made a commitment to have the highway that runs through Waywayseecappo to have some improvements done to Highway 45 where the boy was killed,” Cloud said. “He failed on his commitment to do that.”
Included in a provincial press release touting a $200-million infrastructure plan back in 2001, $700,000 was earmarked “for safety improvements to the intersection on PTH 45 at Waywayseecappo,” the release said.
There have been many fatalities since the commercial development began in the surrounding area, Cloud said.
“The more and more we develop, the more people are going to driving through there and walk through there.”
The highway running through the First Nation, which is heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists in the area to get to the rink and gas station, has a reduced speed limit.
“It’s sad, but things like this happen and this may have been prevented had the improvements been made,” Cloud said. “This is a young man, he should still be with us today, he had his whole life ahead of him.”
Alcohol is not considered a contributing factor in this latest incident as the investigation continued over the weekend and police did not release the name of the teen.
The pastor of the Waywayseecappo Gospel Church, Clinton Bird, sent a message out to the church’s Facebook group ahead of Sunday’s regular afternoon service.
“Prayers for the boy who passed away tragically in Wayway,” he wrote.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 26, 2013