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Crash victim River Wells 'tough as nails' and 'genuine'

'You always knew where you stood with him. There was never any drama or games with River,' says former Barrie North rugby coach

As the families of six Barrie residents killed in a catastrophic car wreck this past weekend mourn their loved ones, the grief also extends into the community and the people who helped shape their young lives.

The fatal single-vehicle crash on McKay Road in south-end Barrie claimed the lives of Luke West, Jersey Mitchell, Haley Marin, Curtis King, Jason Ono-O'Connor, and River Wells. 

Steve Porter, who was a coach and teacher at Barrie Central Collegiate and Barrie North, coached two of the young men who died in the crash, including River Wells, who was 23 years old. 

Wells, who also made the jump to Barrie North with Porter, was “tough as nails," the coach said.

“River was a great kid,” Porter said. “You always knew where you stood with him. He was genuine.

“There was never any drama or games with River, but when he found a friendship, he embraced that friendship,” Porter added. “He was loyal to the end.”

Porter said that he and Wells talked several times during their time together and Porter was able to be an ear for him while the then-student “was going through stuff.”

“I do remember that in his final year at North, he thought he wasn’t in love with the idea of school or playing rugby and his friends were trying to talk him back into both. Myself and the other coach... had a few conversations with him about it,” said Porter. “He decided to make a go of it in his final year in 2019 and that was a great year for all of us.”

Wells and his team went on a rugby tour in Nevada, won their first Georgian Bay Secondary School Association championship and grabbed the consolation championship at OFSAA.

“River was a big part of that. He was an open-side flanker for us and definitely made the opposition’s life a little more difficult because he was just everywhere on that field,” Porter said. 

The coach said he was shocked when he got a call from another player’s dad to let him know the tragic news.

“It's a tragedy for all six families, it's a tragedy no matter whose family it is, but when it's a kid you’ve come to know and really like, it's a kick in the teeth, for sure,” said Porter. 

A GoFundMe for Wells was set up by a family friend is currently at $18,261.

In it, the description for the page reads:

“(River) was and is loved by so many people.

His dad, Ben was so proud of him, anytime you talked to Ben he would always talk about him with the biggest smile. He will be missed by so many people. We can't imagine what the family is going through, and the family of the other five individuals. 

We have set up this GoFundMe to help Ben and family through this tragic time.

We love you. Anything helps during this devastating time.”

BarrieToday reached out to the Wells family, but they have not responded for comment. 

Bentley Wells, River’s father, left a touching tribute and pictures of the two on his Facebook, saying: “I lost my River yesterday in a car accident I’m going to miss you River ❤️❤️❤️ you were my everything in life 🙏🙏🙏 RIP we will meet up again one day. Love you always ❤️❤️❤️”