Wetaskiwin mourns 2 high school students killed in collision: ‘It’s heartbreaking’

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Two teens were killed and three others injured in a crash Friday night, north of Wetaskiwin in central Alberta. Chris Chacon speaks with community members about the deaths of the Grade 12 students – Oct 10, 2021

An earlier version of this article contained a photo with a caption incorrectly stated a seat from the vehicle was still present on the side of the highway. 

The community of Wetaskiwin is in mourning.

“It doesn’t feel real,” Alexis Kalynchuk said Sunday, fighting tears while speaking about the deaths of her two friends in central Alberta.

Wetaskiwin Composite High School Grade 12 students Weston Pitcher and Bradyn Heinz were killed late Friday when the vehicle they were in lost control and rolled off the highway around 11 p.m.

Three other teens were injured in the single-vehicle crash north of Wetaskiwin, on Highway 814 and Township Road 475 near Millet.

STARS Air Ambulance took them to an Edmonton hospital in serious but stable condition.

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Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools supt. Peter Barron told Global News all five students were in Grade 12 at the high school.

Read more: 2 students dead, 3 sent to hospital by STARS after crash north of Wetaskiwin

Kalynchuk said she was good friends with all the boys in the vehicle: “I was pretty much the only girl in the group, and I just felt so included, and it was just so nice.”

Teenagers Weston Pitcher and Bradyn Heinz were killed in a collision that also injured three of their friends near Wetaskiwin, Alta. on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. Supplied to Global News

They were part of a large friend group that Kalynchuk said did all the normal things teenagers do: gathered at each other’s homes, had campfires and went on trips to Edmonton.

“As soon as everyone found out, it’s all everyone’s been talking about and it’s all they’re going to talk about for a while, I’m pretty sure,” Kalynchuk said, adding they had already been looking forward to the end of October.

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“We had plans, me and the boys… like a Halloween party and stuff like that, and I just… sorry, I don’t really know. This is a lot,” the emotional teen said, struggling to find the words to express the depth of her grief.

A memorial at the scene of crash near Wetaskiwin, Alta., that killed two teens and sent three others to hospital. Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021. Global News

It’s an emotion Mayor Tyler Gandam said the entire community of Wetaskiwin is grappling with.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking. A city of 13,000 people — it’s not a matter of if you know them; it’s how you know them,” Gandam said on Sunday.

“For the kids moving forward, the kids in the collision, the families that have lost sons… I don’t know how you get past that.”

Read more: Devon man charged after woman, 62, killed in collision near Wetaskiwin

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Gandam said the tragedy is made all the more acute by the Thanksgiving weekend.

“Families are supposed to be getting together, and now we’re dealing with a loss like this in our community, and for the families that have lost sons, classmates have lost students and friends… it’s heartbreaking.”

The Wetaskiwin Composite High School in Wetaskiwin, Alta., on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021. Global News

The school division said its crisis response team will be there for students, parents and staff who need it.

When classes resume on Tuesday, multiple schools will have counsellors available for any students who may need help surrounding this loss.

WRPS advised people who require support or further assistance to call the child’s school. Those phone numbers can be found on the main WRPS website.

Gandam said the city will show its support however necessary.

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“Wetaskiwin is an amazing city where they absolutely come together to make sure that families have the support that they need, and that’s what we’ll do.

“We’ll wait to hear what the families need and we’ll pull together to make sure that they’ve got the support from the community.”

RCMP continue to investigate the crash, and the cause is still unknown.

— With files from Jessika Guse and Breanna Karstens-Smith, Global News

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