KINGSTON, Ont. — The celebratory sounds of the school year ending have been hushed by tragedy at Canada’s Royal Military College as students and staff mourn the loss of four of their own on Saturday.
Officer cadets Jack Hogarth, Andrei Honciu, Broden Murphy and Andres Salek, all poised to graduate, died early Friday morning when their vehicle plunged into the lake that surrounds the campus in Kingston, Ont.
Students had to push on with the final day of Saturday with the incident hanging over their heads, but said they tried to focus on the task at hand.
“It was really, ‘keep your head down and try and do as good as you can under the circumstances,'” said second-year student Aiden Robb-Craig after finishing his last exam.
While RMC closed off the main campus for the weekend to outsiders, students leaving final exams at an adjacent building were quiet, with some saying they would probably postpone their end-of-term celebrations because of what happened.
Others will likely gather for drinks to move past the tragedy together, said Robb-Craig.
“This is one of the ways people are going to get past it. This is going to be the big stress relief, like, going out together is kind of what we do. That’s just how we grieve together, how we get past stuff.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement saying his heart breaks for the families and friends of the four who died, while RMC Commandant Josee Kurtz said Friday that the entire college community is devastated by the loss.
“The principal of RMC, Dr. Harry Kowal, and I extend our deepest condolences to their loved-ones,” she said at a news conference. “As parents ourselves, we can only imagine their pain, and we will continue to provide them the support they need in the tough days and weeks ahead.”
On campus, two impromptu memorials have sprung up, one by a gazebo near one of the residences, the other at the site of the incident, said RMC spokesman Jonathan Farlam.
Across the bay in downtown Kingston, community members expressed dismay at the news.
“I was shocked to hear about it, it was the last place that something would happen like that,” said Ben Doherty.
“It’s a tragedy, they were just ready to leave.”
Hogarth was in military and strategic studies and hoped to be an officer in an armoured regiment, according to the defence department. Honciu was studying business administration and planned to be a logistics officer.
Murphy, also a business administration student, was working to become an aerospace environment controller. Salek, a student of military and strategic studies, also wanted to be an armoured officer.
National Defence has released few details about the fatal incident, saying only that the four died after the single vehicle entered Lake Ontario at Point Frederick on campus at about 2 a.m. Friday morning. An investigation is ongoing.
A spokeswoman for National Defence said details concerning any memorial service will be communicated at the wishes and discretion of the victims’ families.