Teen killed by bear banger

A Rocky Mountain House teen was killed by a device commonly used by people who are accustomed to venturing into the woods.

Pen-sized explosive device can fire either a flare into the sky (top left)

A Rocky Mountain House teen was killed by a device commonly used by people who are accustomed to venturing into the woods.

“We sell a lot of them” to campers, fly-fishermen and oilfield workers, said Dale Malin, owner of The Sportsmen’s Den in Red Deer about a projectile discharger. It can either shoot flares or a “bear banger” fireworks explosive that’s meant to scare bears away with a very loud bang.

The pen-sized devices generally have a lock and safety mechanism, and the flare or explosive has to be screwed in for the device to be loaded. Malin believes loaded dischargers should never be left lying around.

Backcountry experts say the devices can be extremely dangerous when shot at close range.

Tanner Mayer, a Grade 11 student at West Central High School in Rocky, died on Monday after being hit with a projectile from a discharging device.

RCMP Investigators say two teenagers were in a car outside a home on Monday afternoon when one of them picked up what appeared to be an ordinary pen. The discharger went off while being handled and Mayer was struck in the chest at close range.

The 15-year-old victim was treated by ambulance and hospital workers, but succumbed to his injuries, leaving relatives, friends and classmates in the tight-knit community shocked and grief-stricken.

Counsellors were at Mayer’s school for a second day on Wednesday, helping classmates deal with their emotions.

Wild Rose School Division superintendent Brian Celli said Mayer had been in the district for some time and had many friends, judging by the large circle of grievers.

He said the new school year “is supposed to be a time of new beginnings and optimism, and for this to happen at this time. . . .” Celli believes many students have been rocked by how a young life “can be taken away in just a second.”

The boy who fired the projectile discharger is reportedly a good friend of Mayer’s. He will be given as much counselling as he needs, said Celli, who added that support will also be offered to the families of both boys.

No memorial service has yet been planned. “We’ll discuss that when this grieving period is over,” said Celli.

Grief counsellors were also brought in to Extra Foods in Rocky, where Mayer worked after school.

Craig Ware, director of corporate affairs for Loblaws Foods, said, “All of us at Loblaws are incredibly shocked and saddened by what happened and we want to extend our heart-felt condolences and prayers to the family.”

Police continue to investigate and are waiting for autopsy results to reveal what Mayer was shot with. No arrests have been made or charges laid.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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