Family identifies victim of fatal collision

One of the two Red Deer labourers tragically killed in the fatal collision just east of Olds on Monday has been identified by family.

Damian Pannenbecker

One of the two Red Deer labourers tragically killed in the fatal collision just east of Olds on Monday has been identified by family.

Damian Pannenbecker, 19, of Red Deer was driving the minivan that collided with an SUV on Hwy 27, killing three and leaving four others injured.

Pannenbecker was driving five other co-workers with a Blackfalds construction company home from a job site in Olds when the van crossed the middle line into the oncoming SUV.

“He was just an amazing person, very kind and compassionate,” said Brie Guenther, Pannenbekcer’s eldest sister. “But at the same time he was always so funny and he had a joke or a comeback for everything. He was just great to be around.”

Pannenbecker was the third eldest of seven siblings.

He lived in Red Deer with his other older sister but travelled home to his parents’ house in Lacombe frequently.

“He spent a lot of his time in Lacombe. He had injured himself at work in December so he was off of work for a few weeks and ended up spending all of that time here in Lacombe with everyone so now, looking back, it’s amazing that we got that opportunity to spend all that extra time with him,” Guenther said.

Pannenbecker played for the Ponoka Stampeders hockey team and was assistant captain.

He loved baseball and hockey and was working in construction as a framer until he was set to start his apprenticeship for carpentry.

In a Facebook post, his father, Denny Pannenbecker thanks friends and family for the memories and photos they are sharing of his son.

“As his father, it is amazing to see all the people he has touched in his young life. I am so very proud of the young man he had become. He loved you all very much. Please allow him to live on in your hearts and memories,” he wrote.

Instead of a funeral the family has organized a celebration of Pannenbecker’s life for Jan. 11 at 1 p.m. at the Lacombe Memorial Centre.

“We’re asking that no one wears black. Everyone that was on his team will be wearing team jerseys. We’re asking everyone to wear colourful clothes or jerseys or blue and white because he loved the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was an oddball in Alberta that way,” Guenther said.

The celebration will be followed by a memorial skate at 6 p.m. at Cranna Lake in Lacombe.

“He spent so much of his life on the rink and it’s a big part of our life as a family and we want to make sure we pay tribute to him in a way that he would have liked and I think he would have liked that.”

Another unidentified framer of the Red Deer area, age 20, was also pronounced dead at the scene. Donna Mills, 56, of Olds, also died. She was the lone occupant of the SUV.

The four survivors were transported to various hospitals and as of Tuesday afternoon, Olds RCMP reported that all four are expected to make full recoveries.

Police say speed and alcohol were not factors in the crash but the investigation is ongoing and no determination has yet been made on the cause.

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