Alberta RCMP say they do not suspect foul play in the sudden death of a 16-year-old girl in Drayton Valley. Officers are not searching for any suspects and hope a vehicle inspection will shed light on the tragic incident, that also left a 17-year-old boy in critical condition.
At around 3:30 a.m. Thursday, RCMP officers patrolling the perimeter of a building in the area of 54 Street and 24 Avenue noticed a parked vehicle with the engine running.
A 16-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy were found unconscious; the boy was in the driver’s seat.
Fire officials and EMS were called to the scene. The girl, Shaina Ridenour, was pronounced dead at the hospital.
“Drayton Valley Community Outreach School was very proud of our young firecracker,” the school’s principal, Kim Desmarais, said on Friday.
“She was a blessing to us and will be greatly missed… She was just full of spirit and full of life and gone far too soon.”
“Shaina was a gift from God,” her friend Tyrone Bradford told Global News. “She was such a bubbly spirit.
“Growing up, I’ve never had a person who accepted me for being who I was… she lit up a dark room with her positive energy. Shaina always defended her friends and family to the end and she defended me when others wanted to pick on me for my race, sexuality, personality – everything. That’s the type of person she was.”
The teen boy was airlifted to an Edmonton hospital and remained in critical condition on Friday morning.
“It’s just tough. It’s scary,” said Bailey Harden, a friend of the boy.
“Him being so young and it’s right around Christmastime so I can’t imagine what his family is going through.”
RCMP said there was a strong odour of exhaust coming from inside the vehicle.
Cpl. Chris Warren said a vehicle inspection is scheduled.
“The vehicle is scheduled for mechanical inspection Dec. 27 and we hope the examination will bring answers to this tragic loss of life,” Warren said.
On Thursday, the Wild Rose School Division issued a statement about the “terrible” incident. School officials said one student was attending Frank Maddock High School and the other was attending Drayton Valley Community Outreach School.
“It’s a terrible tragedy,” Frank Maddock High School principal Shelly Cloke said on Friday. “It’s been really hard on staff and students. They’re shaken but they’re pulling together to support one another.”
Cloke added while a crisis team is in place to support students and staff, she worries how they’ll cope over the Christmas holidays and is working to inform parents and students about what resources are available to them.
“Both these students were incredibly connected so we know that the grief is far spread,” Desmarais said. “We cannot imagine the pain they are having to endure, so close to Christmas too.”
“Our community is absolutely heartbroken having lost one of our own and we are praying for a positive outcome for the other student currently in hospital.”
Drayton Valley’s mayor, Michael Doerksen, said the town is prepared to assist in any way they can. He said he doesn’t know the families involved and hasn’t had a chance to talk to them yet, but can’t imagine what they are going through.
“They’re 16 but they’re still children,” he said. “I have young children myself and if I put myself in their place, it’s a very sad thought to think of.
“It’s very sad and obviously with the time of year it is, Christmas is never going to be the same for them.”
Bradford said he’ll now think of Shaina as his guardian angel.
“Heaven added another angel and I know she’s going to be looking down at all of us, and she’ll be defending me.”
Drayton Valley is located about 140 kilometres southwest of Edmonton.