Remembering Bathurst's ‘boys in red’ 10 years after tragic van crash
Published Friday, January 12, 2018 8:54PM AST
Friday marked the sombre tenth anniversary of a van accident that claimed the lives of the boys in red -- seven members of the high school basketball team and their coach's wife.
Five of the boys who died -- Javier Acevedo, Nathan Cleland, Justin Cormier, Codey Branch, and Daniel Hains -- were 17 years old. The other two students were Nick Quinn, 16, and Nikki Kelly, 15.
Shaun MacDonald is now the principal of Bathurst High School. In 2008, he was a guidance counsellor. He vividly remembers the hours, days, and weeks that followed.
“We always talk about the day, during this day, you know during Jan. 12. We just talk about how surreal it was, the sadness,” says MacDonald. “As a school, we really saw the resilience of kids, and how kids helped us heal.”
Life inside the school has necessarily moved on, but each Jan. 12th, there's a pause. The emotion is still raw. For the families who lost a loved one that night, the grief never goes away.
Some find healing by the roadside. Anyone driving by the crash site is reminded of it: a basketball hoop stands guard over what Isabelle Hains calls a sacred site.
“That day, part of me died. There's no one year, two years, three years. It seems like yesterday,” says Hains, who was Daniel Hains’s mother.
For Hains, the tragedy turned into a crusade. She fought for a coroner's inquest and for improved safety standards for school travel to ensure no other parent has to go through this.
“Remembering the boys. We also remember the politicians, the Department of Education, everyone else that what they need to do to protect the children when they're travelling to after school activities, it's a reminder,” Hains says.
First responders are still dealing with the emotional fallout a decade later.
“Every individual is different. Any incident can affect any first responder to varying degrees,” says fire chief Donald Laffoley.
The community seemed full of reminders on Friday, with candles and wreaths at all three permanent memorials to the boys in red.
For the first time, flags flew at half-mast as the city recognized a day of mourning, even as it grapples with how to acknowledge the loss.
“How do you respect both sides and you know do what's right for the families and the memories of the lost ones? But at the same time, allow the living and the participants to move forward and go on with their lives,” asks Laffoley. “Unfortunately, I don't think there's an easy answer or a right answer."
And although few within the school halls knew the people whose names are forever etched on this city's consciousness, they say the boys in red will never be forgotten.
“Whether it's the basketball team or hockey team or whatever club I know we'll always remember their legacy no matter what,” says Grade 12 student Reilly Riordon.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Sarah Ritchie.