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Tragedy - Jun. 15, 2010


Kathy Bockus/Courier
Crosses have been erected in stone cairns on Highway 1 where an all terrain vehicle accident Saturday claimed the life of Matt Haley,18, a St. Stephen High School graduating student. Sean Kent, 17, the driver of the vehicle, who is also a member of the 2010 graduating class, remains is listed in good condition in hospital in Saint John.

BY KATHY BOCKUS
kathy@stcroixcourier.ca
ST. STEPHEN
– A fatal ATV accident Saturday has plunged a community into mourning and cast a shadow of grief over ceremonies planned next week for the graduating class of St. Stephen High School.
Dead is Matt Haley, 18, of Pomeroy Ridge.
Listed in good condition Tuesday morning at the Saint John Regional Hospital is Sean Kent, 17, of Scotch Ridge whom police believe was the driver of the vehicle.
Both teens were scheduled to graduate June 23.
“Matthew is a member of our senior class. He was due to graduate in a little over a week’s time,” said SSHS principal Jamie Waycott. “He was a very, very well thought of young man by his peers, the students at our school, and highly thought of by our staff. He was a very hardworking, very honest young man.
“The challenge will be to appropriately remember Matthew and at the same time celebrate the accomplishments of the remainder of the grad class and I’m sure we will find that balance and do it appropriately,” said Waycott.
He described the accident as a school’s and family’s worst nightmare, especially at this time of year.
Haley’s funeral will be held this week on Thursday at 2 p.m. at the S.O. Mehan & Son Funeral Home in St. Stephen.
Visiting will take place Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Internment will take place in the Milltown Roman Catholic Cemetery in Barter Settlement. Donations can be made to the Matthew Haley Scholarship Fund.
District 10 Superintendent Derek O’Brien said he is leaving it to Waycott and Haley’s family to decide how to appropriately remember Haley at the graduation ceremony.
“Most importantly we do want Matthew’s family to know our thoughts are with them and our prayers are with them as they deal with this during this difficult time and the hope that all our students out there, getting ready for graduation time, are thinking safety over the next few weeks,” said O’Brien.
He said the school and district was also very concerned about Kent and he was glad to hear Kent is recovering from his injuries.
A spokesperson for the RCMP said the investigation into the fatality is ongoing. They have not officially released the names of the persons involved.
“There are still a number of unanswered questions as to what transpired and when,” said Cpl. John Nagy.
“We’re trying to identify some contributing factors,” said the officer, citing unknowns at this time as the speed of the vehicle, the driver’s knowledge of the terrain, whether the lights and brakes were working on the four-wheeled ATV and whether alcohol was involved.
“We’re not considering charges at this time; we’re a long way from that,” said Nagy.
He said a big part of the investigation is trying to determine the time of the accident.
Nagy said police are surmising the survivor (Kent) was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident because the vehicle is registered to one of his parents.
“The injured person also supposedly made a statement to someone that he was operating the ATV, but we haven’t had the opportunity to go speak to him.
“Obviously we want to make sure the survivor is okay medically to speak to us,” said Nagy.
Police and rescue personnel responded Saturday, June 13, around 10:40 a.m. to the accident scene along the new portion of Highway 1 near the exit into St. Stephen.
The investigation so far has determined the ATV carrying the two teens was travelling on the side of the westbound highway lane when it went down a steep, rock-strewn embankment.
The overturned quad was found in the water of Dennis Stream near a bridge. Haley was pronounced dead at the scene. Only one helmet was found at the scene and police have not yet determined who was wearing it.
Initial indications are that Kent was able to make his way up the rocky incline to the side of the road where a passing motorist stopped and rendered assistance.
A makeshift shrine has been established at the accident site and higher above it, beside the highway. Friends have placed flowers, erected crosses, and written condolences on cards as well as the guard rail.
Someone has planted a small flower garden inside a ring of stones, while others have spray painted messages on the cement pillars supporting the highway overpass.
Waycott said the school’s emergency response team, a combination of SSHS staff and those from the district office, opened the school Sunday afternoon.
“We had on hand staff grief counsellors, and regular teaching staff, to give our students an opportunity to come to a place they call home, our school, to hang out,” explained Waycott.
It was also an opportunity to identify students who were the most significantly impacted by this tragedy and to make accommodations for them. Friday was the last day of classes and exams started Monday.
Waycott said the team felt it was beneficial to the students to have the opportunity to congregate and for the initial grief process to begin.
By and large Monday morning’s exams went well, he said, adding that a few more students came to their attention who needed special arrangements to accommodate their grieving.
Waycott said closing the school was never an option.
“Our training and experience tell us schools, where possible, should remain open and that students do need that normality. It provides them a place to grieve with their friends and with supportive adults with them.”
Waycott said he has spoken to Haley’s family. He confirmed Haley has a younger brother who is a Grade 10 student at SSHS.
“I spent a lot of time with his family Sunday morning and again this morning,”Waycott said Monday afternoon.
“They are grief stricken as one would imagine. They’ve lost their son, the eldest child in the family due to graduate in a week’s time,” he said, visibly overcome with emotion.
He described Haley as a “very personable young fellow,” calling him an outdoorsman, a typical 18-year-old living in rural New Brunswick who loved the outdoors and the activities it allowed including four wheeling, hunting fishing, “all good, healthy activities.”
Haley’s father, the late Allen Joseph Haley, was killed in a traffic accident when Haley was a small boy.
Besides his brother, he is survived by his mother, Shirley Etta (Hannon) Morton, his maternal grandmother, Bessie Hannon, paternal grandparents, Carol and Joe Haley, several aunts, uncles and cousins.