An entire community was grieving on Thursday, one day after a teenage girl was killed in a collision between a school bus and a gravel truck north of Redwater.
The victim was Maisie Watkinson, Global News has learned. She was 15 years old.
A spokesperson with Aspen View Public Schools said the bus was taking students to Thorhild Central School, a kindergarten to Grade 12 school located in Thorhild, Alta. when the crash happened at around 8 a.m. There were 14 students and one driver on the bus at the time.
Alberta Health Services said the teenage girl was pronounced dead at the scene. EMS assessed 14 other patients.
In an Instagram post shared Wednesday night, Watkinson’s sister Andrea wrote: “My heart aches for my parents and my brothers. My little brothers were so brave today and did what they could to save their big sister.
“That’s my girl and my whole world. My family and I are devastated by this tragedy. We will get justice for Maisie.”
Watkinson worked part-time at the Co-Op store.
“Maisie has been an amazing employee,” Jonathan Alyward said. “Very close to myself and a lot of staff members. She even, on occasion, would watch my kids. My son was really close to her and looked up to her at school.”
Alyward described the 15-year-old as “very energetic, always positive. Never was there a day that she didn’t come in and was happy to be at work… a joy for all the customers and staff members to see every day.”
Wednesday was a very difficult day for employees.
“A lot of our staff members were quite devastated,” he said. “They had to take off for a few hours during the day just to cope with the news they heard.”
It’s hitting everyone hard, Thorhild County’s reeve said.
“It hurts,” Kevin Grumetza said. “It hurts everyone — the rest of the students at the school, the teachers, the ones that knew her first-hand… the kids, the other kids that were on the school bus.
“Nobody ever in their wildest dreams ever thinks that’s going to happen to them or their family… I have no idea how people cope with it; I really truly don’t,” he said, his voice breaking.
Grumetza said the thoughts and prayers of the county are with the girl’s family, school peers and staff. He also thanked emergency first responders for their efforts.
The principal of Thorhild Central School said everyone at the school was devastated to lose a student.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the student’s family, friends and the entire Thorhild community at this incredibly difficult time,” Kim Carson said in a letter.
“Thorhild Central School is a close-knit family and this tragedy fills us all with an immeasurable sense of loss. Together we will support and comfort everyone in our community through this difficult time.”
She said additional counselling supports have been brought into the school to help all students and staff.
“We pledge to continue to provide supports to all our students and staff in the days and weeks ahead,” Carson said.
On Wednesday, each class was spoken to individually about the fatal crash, the principal said.
“Everyone responds to tragedy and grief in their own way. We encourage parents and caregivers to talk with and be present for their children during this difficult time.
Just over 300 students attend the school in Thorhild County.
Aspen View Public Schools Supt. Mark Francis said the student’s death will have a profound effect on the entire community.
“These will be students that have attended school together for multiple years, the same kids year after year. This is the typical small-town Alberta where everyone knows everyone and it’s very difficult to deal with,” he explained.
“It’s a profound impact, at every level.
“This is a small community, everyone knows everyone and so it impacts the entire community. We have a grieving family, we have a grieving community, we have grieving children and we have grieving staff.”
Watch below: A teenage girl is dead after a crash between a school bus and gravel truck on a rural road north of Redwater Wednesday morning. Quinn Ohler reports.
— With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News