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'A big, very sad moment in our city': Vigil to honour 6 lives lost

Candlelight vigil planned for Sept. 3, as Barrie crash investigation appears to be focused on large concrete hole on McKay Road

The investigation into the deadly crash from this past weekend continues, but so do the grieving and ways to remember and honour the six young people who died on McKay Road.

There are several ways to give condolences and remember the victims of the tragic crash.

Luke WestJersey MitchellRiver Wells, Curtis KingJason Ono-O’Connor and Haley Marin all perished in the crash, however many questions remain around what happened as the Barrie police investigation continues. all in their early 20s, perished in the crash at a construction zone on McKay Road on Saturday.

The area where the crash is believed to have occurred has been blocked off since Sunday as police and other agencies conduct their investigation.

A large concrete hole seemed to be the focus of investigators on Wednesday morning.

Kalem McSween, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, confirmed via email the ministry has been on scene.

“The (ministry) was notified on Aug. 28, 2022 of a motor-vehicle incident that occurred at a construction project in Barrie. (A ministry) inspector attended the scene,” said McSween. “Our investigation is ongoing. The length of the investigation will depend on the complexities of the case.”

The ministry investigates all critical injuries and fatalities that occur on provincially regulated worksites.

McSween said the ministry’s investigation includes, but is not limited to, examination of the incident location, any equipment involved, workplace policies and procedures, signage, fencing, barriers, worker training history, and records.

“Ministry health and safety inspectors interview witnesses such as workers, supervisors, employers and anyone else the inspector determines may have relevant information. Our first priority is to ensure worker safety. The ministry’s investigation is assessing compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and associated regulations,” said McSween.

Barrie police communications coordinator Jennett Mays said there was nothing new to report since Monday, noting the investigation was ongoing and would take time to complete. She also stated if and when any updates are available, they will be shared via a news release.

A candlelight vigil for those who died in the crash will take place Saturday, Sept. 3 at the Spirit Catcher at 8 p.m.

Vigil organizer Kassondra Wemp said that during this time of widespread grief, she couldn’t sit around and do nothing.

“I have heard of people doing candlelight vigils in the past and figured it would be a great idea to be able to get the community together to show those who lost someone special to them that they are not alone,” said Wemp. “I’m close with the family of one of the victims and was hoping this would help put a smile on their faces, even if it’s just for a little while.”

For those going to the vigil, the ceremony will include lighting candles, placing flowers and pictures, and having some people say a few words, whether it be family or friends.

When asked if he could recall a single moment in the city’s history that mirrored the loss seen here, Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman on Wednesday said, “Over the years there have been, unfortunately, severe crashes with multiple victims, but I certainly don’t remember one with six.

"I think of the week at Roberta Place where we lost half the residents; that was horrible. But I really don’t believe it’s about the number, but rather the individuals themselves. Whether it was all in a few days at Roberta Place or all in one moment here, the loss of people whose lives were cut short is the awful part.”

Lehman said what saddens him is how he has found out the last couple of days of what he called the one or two degrees of separation he has seen among people in town.

“I’ve talked to people who either knew one or more of those lost or their families,” said Lehman. “This is a big, very sad moment in our city and it won’t be any time soon that we are through it. The families will never be through it and that’s why we need to come together as a community for them.”

Lehman added a book of condolences has been set up in the rotunda lobby of Barrie City Hall for anyone wishing to leave a message for the families. The book will be available during business hours for the next several weeks.

There have also been several individual GoFundMe pages created for the victims, with one in particular being created by Ripple of Kindness Barrie. That page is being called a Barrie Community Support Fund, with money being allocated to all the families of the victims.

McKay Road is named after Pte. Kevin Thomas McKay, who was killed May 13, 2010, when an improvised explosive device detonated as he was conducting a night foot patrol near the village of Nakhonay, in the Panjwaii district, 15 kilometres southwest of Kandahar in Afghanistan.

Lehman said he remembers getting the stretch of road named after the former Barrie-area resident and soldier.

“I often think about Pte. McKay when driving on or near that road. It isn’t lost on me that we named it after a 24-year-old, young man to honour his death, and we will now, and likely forever, remember six people who tragically lost their lives on that road and were about the same age,” said Lehman. “Right now it is a very rural area, but in the future it will be more of a suburban area and I don’t know what the right answer is on how to remember them, but, yes, I know I and so many others will now think of that road and remember Pte. McKay and these six friends.”