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Police release update on 'unfathomable' Barrie crash

Investigators have determined the deadly crash, which killed six young Barrie residents, happened shortly after 6 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27, but many questions still remain

For the first time in many days, Barrie police has provided an update regarding the tragic Aug. 27 crash that claimed the lives of six young people on McKay Road in the city's south end, but many questions still remain as the investigation continues.

Barrie police have confirmed that on Sunday, Aug. 28 at approximately 2 a.m., while conducting a missing persons investigation, uniformed officers patrolling the area checked the construction zone and located the vehicle in a large hole in the middle of McKay Road, between County Road 27 and Veterans Drive.

According to a family member of one of the victims, the car plummeted into the hole — referred to by the city as a "tunnel access shaft" related to the residential development happening in the area — and then caught fire.  

While not named in a news release issued by city police on Thursday, Barrie police communications coordinator Peter Leon confirmed the deceased are Haley Marin, Curtis King, Luke West, Jersey Mitchell, River Wells, and Jason Ono-O’Connor, all of whom were in their early 20s and who had been reported missing in the hours before the crash scene was discovered. Police say the victims were positively identified late last week. 

"One death is a tragedy — six (is) very much unfathomable," Leon said. 

Investigators have determined the collision occurred shortly after 6 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27. Police say they believe the group was travelling to a nearby casino at Georgian Downs in neighbouring Innisfil.

When contacted with further questions not answered or addressed in the police release, including which way the vehicle was travelling when the crash occurred, Leon said the investigation continues.

“This has been a very complex investigation and we have, very fortunately, been able to utilize various aspects of technology that are available to our investigators and we have been able to determine the move of travel, though we can’t speak to the specifics of that yet,” Leon said. “We have information that supports what we know, but we are in the process of double checking and making sure we are positive.”

The news release asks anyone who travelled along McKay Road, in the area currently under construction, between late afternoon on Friday, Aug. 26 and 2 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 28, when the collision scene was located, to contact investigators at 705-725-7025, ext. 2162.

It's also still unclear who was driving the vehicle or even what kind of vehicle was involved in the crash. At the time the missing persons reports were put out, police were searching for a white Hyundai, which belonged to Mitchell. 

When asked what vehicle was recovered at the scene, Leon said "the car belonged to a family member of one of the deceased persons." However, he could not confirm the make or model.

Leon also directed questions regarding toxicology results to the province's Office of the Chief Coroner. 

When what the investigation has revealed about barricades around the hole and how the road was blocked to traffic, Leon said, “That is also part of the ongoing investigation and is another reason we want people to contact us with dash-cam footage or information if they were in the area,” he said.

While the road is currently barricaded with fencing and large concrete blocks, residents in the area have said the roads were not properly blocked off, only having 'Local Traffic Only' signs in place.

In an email statement on Sept. 1, City of Barrie chief administrative officer Michael Prowse said: “We are devastated by the loss of life and the events of Aug. 27/28. Currently, there is an ongoing police investigation, and the City of Barrie is co-operating fully with that investigation. Unfortunately, we are simply not able to provide any additional comment or details at this time.”

In regards to the timing of an additional update, Leon said, “We are not sure, but we definitely understand the public is curious to know what happened. What I would say is that while we want to help people with this process, our duty is to conduct a proper and thorough investigation and this is very complex.

"We also have a priority to the families before the general public. At the end of the day, all updates have been taken to the families, who have a liaison officer, and they have been brought up to speed," Leon added. 

A candlelight vigil was held Saturday night at Barrie’s Spirit Catcher to honour the six crash victims, with parents and relatives speaking to the crowd of around 400 people about who their loved one was and what they meant to them.