TRACADIE-SHEILA, N.B. — The mayor of a small New Brunswick community said Monday that separate, private funerals will be held for four young people who died when their car slid into the icy Tracadie River.
Aldeoda Losier, the mayor of Tracadie-Sheila, said the families of four teenagers from the Acadian peninsula have told him they aren’t seeking a public memorial to mark Friday’s tragedy.
“We have to respect the wish of the families,” he said. “Each one has their own religious parish and each one wants to do their own memorial.”
Losier said the northeastern New Brunswick community is mourning, noting all local churches observed two minutes of silence Sunday in the victims’ honour.
People formed long lines at the local funeral home for visitations on Christmas Eve and local newspapers published notices of funerals for the days after Christmas, he said.
RCMP say 17-year-old Marie-Helene Gauvin of Pointe Canot, 18-year-old Tommy Losier and 19-year-old Brian Basque, both of Ste-Rose, and 20-year-old Alexandre McGraw of Losier Settlement died in the crash near Tracadie-Sheila.
The mayor said the three young men had all attended W.-Arthur-Losier high school in Tracadie-Sheila, while the young woman went to school on nearby Lameque Island.
He said the Acadian peninsula region as a whole feels their loss due to the tight-knit nature of the francophone towns in the region, and a sense that young people who stay in the community are needed to ensure its future.
“This is a very big loss. It’s a tragedy for the parents, the grandparents and all of the community. When you have four people of these names … these are big families in this region,” Aldeoda Losier said.
The mayor said parents in the area already worry about their sons and daughters as they commute by airplane to jobs in Western Canada and return every few weeks.
“Now people feel we have lost four young people, and they will never come back,” he said.
RCMP say they are still investigating the reason for the accident on an unserviced road on a former military base about 70 kilometres northeast of Miramichi.
Cpl. Scott Myles of the Tracadie detachment says the car plummeted into the Tracadie River after either sliding backward down a hill or losing control while attempting to go up an icy slope at 1 a.m.
He says an accident reconstruction expert has been examining the tracks of the vehicle leading off a small bridge and into the frigid river, and a mechanical inspection of the vehicle is being completed.
Myles says autopsies are being carried out on the bodies of the four young people.
He said the road was relatively clear earlier on Friday, but over a two-hour period 30 millimetres of rain fell, creating an icy glare on the road.
“That road … was turned into a skating rink. That was certainly a factor in the accident,” said Myles.
The bodies weren’t located until Saturday around 3 p.m., after tow trucks pulled the submerged vehicle from the river and all four bodies were discovered inside.
“All of the strikes were against them. It was poor weather, pitch black, zero cell phone coverage,” said Myles.