The Mount Brydges community is mourning the loss of 13-year-old Avery Kernaghan.
The teenager, an avid figure skater with the Mount Brydges Magic Blades, was in a vehicle with her father on Saturday when the crash occurred.
Emergency crews were called to the scene of the two-vehicle collision along Glendon Drive west of Parkhouse Drive just after 1:30 p.m.
Officers say Kernaghan was rushed to London Health Sciences Centre by ambulance with critical injuries where she was pronounced dead. Her father, Douglas Kernaghan, 47, was airlifted to the same hospital with serious injuries and remains in critical condition.
The lone occupant of the other vehicle was not injured, police said.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Cheryl McFadden, a close family friend whose daughter skated with Avery, said the entire community was in mourning.
“Mount Brydges is a small community. Hockey school, Mount Brydges Skating Club, Mount Brydges Magic Blades, it’s all connected. Our kids will feel this everywhere they go,” she said. “It has been a huge shock to all of us. Tragedies are never easy, but when it’s a young person, its hard to explain to your kids.”
McFadden said the girls were competing at the Provincial Skating Championships in Komoka and were in second place out of 17 teams following their first skate. When it came time to return after a food and rest break, Avery wasn’t there, she said.
Avery’s mother Chrissy, also the team’s coach, received a phone call that there had been an accident, McFadden said. The girls skated without her, unaware of the severity of the incident. It was only after the team received their silver medals that McFadden informed the girls of the news that Avery had passed away.
“We were at the rink and we were in the hospitality room. We had gone from the highest of highs to the lowest that it can ever get,” she said. “Seeing their faces and hearing their cries, it’s not anything that you get out of your mind easily.”
“I think just how amazing of a girl she was. How incredibly missed she’s going to be,” McFadden said of Avery. “Pull your loved ones close, don’t take anything for granted.”
Investigators with Strathroy-Caradoc police are continuing to probe the collision, said Constable Mark Thuss, who added the tragedy hit close to home for the force.
“Some of our officers, their kids go to school with Avery. I taught VIP (Values, Influences and Peers) in that class,” he said. “It’s gut-wrenching for the family and for the friends of those people.”
Thuss said the stretch of road where Saturday’s collision occurred is the same location where a 26-year-old woman was killed in a crash with a tractor-trailer last July.
“It’s an overpass barrier, it crosses over the CN line, and it is on a curve, you go over the hill and on a curve there,” he said. “To say that its a dangerous stretch of road, I wouldnt want to say that. The two crashes were different in nature, one being in July and this one being in January.”
A member of the Mount Brydges community has set-up a collection to help the Kernaghan’s with expenses during this difficult time.
“To donate either an e-transfer can be used and directed to email@example.com or a donation can be dropped off to our house. We are at 21 Woodland Dr. in Kilworth. I will gather these funds and ensure they are passed along immediately. Any amount would be appreciated and can be done anonymously if requested,” read an email from Brad O’Neil and shared on Facebook by members of the community.
Meantime, a Gofundme set up to support the family surpassed its initial $20,000 goal in less than a day.
Anyone with information about the collision is asked to contact Strathroy-Caradoc police at 519-245-1250.
With files from Jaclyn Carbone, Andrew Graham, Jacquelyn LeBel, Matthew Trevithick.