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'Your stories have not ended': Crash victims mourned at vigil

The candlelight vigil for Haley Marin, Curtis King, Luke West, Jersey Mitchell, River Wells and Jason Ono-O’Connor came 7 days after the vehicle they were in plummeted into a construction hole in Barrie

A sombre vigil was held last night as family, friends and community members lit candles for the six young people who died in car crash last weekend in Barrie.

Approximately 400 people gathered at the Spirit Catcher along the waterfront to honour the lives of Haley Marin, 21; Curtis King, 22; Luke West, 22; Jersey Mitchell, 20; River Wells, 23; and Jason Ono-O’Connor, 23. The vigil came seven days after the vehicle they were in plummeted into a construction hole on McKay Road.

The six had been reported missing Saturday, Aug. 27 and the vehicle was found Sunday, Aug. 28 at 2 a.m. by a Barrie police officer inside a large concrete hole, referred to as a tunnel access shaft by the city, measuring 10 metres wide and 20 metres deep, located right in the middle of McKay. The crash is believed to have happened sometime between 4 and 6 a.m. Aug. 27.

Last night's vigil began just after 8 p.m., and included remarks from several family members of the young crash victims.

Jason Ono-O’Connor’s mother, Tara O'Connor, spoke on behalf of her and husband, Herb Ono, as the two had flown in from their home in British Columbia for the vigil.

“From our hearts to yours, my husband, Herb, and I sincerely thank the people of Barrie who have so very generously opened their hearts and homes to us in this difficult time,” she said to those who had gathered. “I know my son is here with us all this evening and I know he is as humbled as my husband and I (are) by the truly generous outpouring of love and support for each of the six families, as well as their family and their friend groups.”

Jason King, who was at the vigil with his wife, Stephanie, spoke about their son, Curtis, and what kind of person he was.

“I lost faith a while ago in our next generation coming up, but through my son and his friends, I regained it in meeting them and knowing them and seeing what fine young men they were turning into," he said. "They really had it going on. I’m just proud to be Curtis’s father. He was my best friend, my No. 1 employee, my son and he’ll always be my hero.”

Bentley Wells spoke about his son, River, and was overcome by emotion as he spoke to the crowd.

“I just want to thank everyone who came out here. This is just amazing," he said. "These six people, these souls, I will never forget any of them. I just wish (River) would come home.”

Jersey Mitchell’s uncle, Jonathon Jackson, spoke on behalf of the family, saying his niece was full of life and made the most of it.

“She loved her family a lot, but she was especially protective of her younger brothers. She loved her friends, too, and she always wanted to cheer them up if they were ever feeling down for any reason,” Jackson said. “She loved people and she loved life. We’ll miss that love, but we are extremely, eternally grateful that she loved us, and we’ll remember that love for the rest of our own lives.”

Haley Marin’s aunt, Tracy More, remembered her niece and said the six families would be joined forever as they search for answers.

“Why these six, why now and how?” More asked as she spoke at the downtown vigil. “Our family's first born, great grandchild, grandchild, niece and cousin, she tied a love in our family together, forever. Every teen has a moment of some good, old-fashioned attitude; she coined the phrase 'sasshole'. Being rude wasn’t her thing — being sassy very much was.

"To Jason, Luke, River, Curtis, Jersey and Haley, your stories have not ended," More added. "Share in their laughter, share their zest for life, protect each other in your healing. Their journeys have just begun; a new justice will be defined. Love and light, Haley, we’ll love you forever.”

Luke West's family did not speak at the vigil, but there were several people in attendance wearing Barrie lacrosse jerseys, a sport in which he both played and coached.

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman admitted nothing any elected official could say would help heal the families' loss, but he spoke about what the past week has taught him about the impact these six young lives had on their community and about the city.

“There have been far too many occasions in the past few years where Barrie has had to come together to show its support in difficult times and to people affected by the worst of circumstances," Lehman said. "But time and again, this community does that. You are here again tonight for that purpose.

"Whether it was through the pandemic, after the tornado or after this most awful accident last weekend, you’ve turned out to show your support," he added. "We’re a city of 150,000 people, but it showed this week that there were two or three degrees of separation to every one of these young people and their families. They touched so many lives.”

Six lanterns were then lit by friends and family and released into the night sky.

The investigation into the crash continues.