WATCH ABOVE: An Alberta teacher has been identified as the man killed in a collision near Stettler that also claimed the life of his 10-month-old baby. As Jessica Kent reports, he’s being remembered as much more than just a teacher.
EDMONTON — A 37-year-old man who was killed in a two-vehicle collision near Stettler over the weekend is being remember as a dedicated teacher with a passion for basketball.
Colin Axelsen was a teacher and basketball coach at Pigeon Lake Regional School. On Sunday morning, he and his wife, along with three children, were driving south on Highway 21 when the van he was driving was struck by an SUV. RCMP believe the SUV drove through a stop sign, which led to the crash.
Axelsen was pronounced dead at the scene. His 10-month-old daughter was airlifted by STARS Air Ambulance to the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary in critical condition. She later died of her injuries.
“He was like a second father to the whole basketball program and the whole community. He was such a huge role model for everyone at the school,” said Kristen Shaw, who recently graduated from Pigeon Lake Regional School.
Members of the school’s basketball team called Axelsen “Axe.” They say he was so much more than just a coach.
“He was so generous with him time and with his praise,” said Leah Netzer, who will start Grade 12 at the school in September. “It’s hard to think of playing the sport I love without him because he has been such a big part of my life.”
“He was always positive and his love for the sport and his love for everybody was always there. He was always so welcoming and caring,” added Maam Vanderkamp, who recently graduated.
The women’s basketball team made it to provincials this year for the first time in 21 years. The students say they owe that to Axelsen.
“He shaped who we were,” said Shaw.
“Everything that we did and everything that we achieved was because of him.”
The superintendent of Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools says Axelsen’s death will greatly impact the staff and students at the school.
“It’s a huge loss. We won’t be able to replace him in the impact that he’s made in the school,” said Terry Pearson. “He is exceedingly well respected by students, staff and parents. He was an outstanding teacher.”
Pearson says the school board will be working with community agencies throughout the summer to provide support to anyone who wants it.
“Right now is the immediate need and so that’s where we really have to rely on community organizations and connecting parents and kids and staff to community organizations,” he said Monday night.
Once the school year begins Pearson says counsellors will also be available. This is the second death affecting the school this month; Pearson says a former student died in early July.
Axelsen’s wife and two sons were taken to hospital by ground ambulance. She and her eldest son were later discharged. Her younger son remains in hospital with serious, but non life-threatening injuries.