Thursday, January 11, 2018

Telegraph Journal: They'll never be forgotten': 10 years after the tragedy

 Isabelle Hains hangs a string of lights from the Boys in Red memorial in preparation for the 10th anniversary vigil Thursday night. Her son, Daniel, was killed in a van crash on Jan. 12, 2008 along with six of his Bathurst High School basketball team mates. Photo: Bryannah James/ The Northern Light

On Thursday night, Chris Quinn will leave his porch light on for his son Nick, just like he has every January 11 for the past 10 years.

To view original article in Telegraph Journal, click here.

But he knows his athletic, dark-haired son will not be coming home.

Nickolas Quinn and six of his basketball teammates from Bathurst High School, Javier Acevedo, Codey Branch, Daniel Hains, Nathan Cleland, Justin Cormier and Nicholas Kelly, along with the coach's wife, Elizabeth Lord, were all killed when the team van collided with a tractor-trailer while returning from a game in Moncton on a snowy night on Jan. 12, 2008.
Friday marks the 10th anniversary of the crash which devastated the entire community.

On each anniversary, Quinn said he and his family spend the night together remembering 16-year-old Nick.

“It’s something we’ve always done since the night of the accident," he said. “I think we just keep him alive in our minds.”

Isabelle Hains, the mother of 17-year-old Daniel Hains, spent the past few days shovelling out a path to the basketball hoop memorial on the side of Highway 8 just inside city limits where, each year, she and a group of friends hold a vigil for the Boys in Red.

This year, she will bring a bouquet of forget-me-nots along with the candles and teddy bears.

“They’ll never be forgotten," she said.

Hains will never forget the last conversation she had with Daniel. She was dropping him off at school and he was talking about his future and upcoming 18th birthday. He was graduating that year and putting off university for the chance to travel overseas.
Daniel kissed her goodbye and headed off to school. He was an affectionate teenager, Haines said, and was never ashamed to give her a hug in public. She wishes she could wrap her arms around him again.

"He was altogether a beautiful child," she said.

Daniel and his teammates on the BHS Phantoms had an away game that evening in Moncton and were driving back at night when an Environment Canada winter storm alert was in effect. The boys travelled in a 15-passenger van driven by their coach, Wayne Lord.

Eight minutes after midnight, on the return trip from Moncton, the van collided with a tractor trailer.
Jordan Frenette, the former point-guard who captained the Phantoms basketball team that year, was not on the van for the game against the Purple Knights because he had been sick that week.

At 2 a.m. his phone rang. A teammate's mother called wanting to speak with Frenette’s parents, Joey and Heather.

“Somebody calls your house at two in the morning, you kind of know something’s off," he said.

It wasn’t until later that morning when Frenette would learn the full extent of the accident.

“It was just a lot of disbelief and a lot of kind of a surreal feeling. It was a very strange type of detachment, I guess at first. Because it really just didn’t make any sense.”
Frenette said he sat in the same seat every time he travelled with the team; it’s the seat Beth Lord was sitting in the night of the accident.

“You think of the butterfly effect right? If one little thing changes, everything changes. So you can’t really play the coulda-woulda-shoulda game too much," he said.

As the years have passed, Frenette, now 27, said he thinks of the teammates he lost when “bigger life events” approach.

“They were so smart and talented and just good guys to be around. You try to personify that every day as best you can."

Around this time of year, Quinn takes out a broken pink necklace that his son Nick used to wear.

He found it while cleaning Nick's room after his death. Nick had been dared to wear the necklace as a challenge by a player on the girls' soccer team. He wore it proudly for over a year until it broke.

The piece of cheap jewelry is proof of just how much Nick cared for his friends, his dad said.

“The whole story behind it reminds me a lot of the things Nick was.”
Quinn said the tragedy united the northern New Brunswick city. Thousands, many dressed in red, packed both the community centre and the nearby arena for their memorial service.

“It did bring the community closer for sure," he said.

Messages of condolence were received from Pope Benedict XVI, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, NBA celebrities like Steve Nash and Chris Bosh and students of all ages across the country and beyond. Jack Lengyel, then 72, who took over as coach of the Marshall University Thundering Herd football team in Huntington, West Virginia after a plane crash the previous year killed nearly the entire team, visited Bathurst on his own time soon after the crash to offer the school his support.

An inquest was launched into the players' deaths and the safety of 15-passenger vehicles was brought into question. Out of the inquiry came 24 recommendations to better protect students. To date, the province has acted on 20 of the 24 recommendations.

Last month, Bathurst City Council proclaimed Jan. 12 as a day of mourning to remember the players.

All city flags will fly at half mast on the anniversary of the crash every year.

Hains said she was touched by the council's decision.

“It’s important for the story to be told," she said. “The children did not have to die that night.”

Although the families of the students have gone in separate directions since the accident, they still carry the grief of the horrific night and the love for their boys.

"We will all feel that same love for eternity,” Hains said.

To view original article in Telegraph Journal, click here.