Two 11-year-old boys and another aged 13 were killed north of Nelson House on April 28 when they were hit by a suspected drunk driver.
Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN) Chief Marcel Moody identified the victims as Terrence Spence, 11, Mattheo Moore-Spence, 11, and Keethan Lobster, 13, on Sunday.*
RCMP say two of the boys were walking and the other one riding a bike along Provincial Road 620 at around 10:30 p.m. Saturday when a vehicle driving southbound hit them. The children were pronounced dead at the scene.
The vehicle was being driven by a 27-year-old Todd Norman Linklater from Nelson House who fled the scene on foot but turned himself in to the Nelson House RCMP detachment around midnight. Police say alcohol was a factor in the collision and multiple charges were laid April 30 against Linklater, who was travelling with four passengers at the time the children were struck. He is charged with three counts of impaired operation of a vehicle causing death, three counts of operating a vehicle over 80 mg per cent causing death and three counts of failing to remain at the scene of an accident. Linklater was scheduled to appear in provincial court in Thompson April 30.
In an April 29 Facebook post, Moody offered his condolences to everyone who is affected by this tragedy and said he knew these boys personally through his family.
“They spent a lot of time playing with many of our kids. They often played at my place with my grandkids also,” he wrote. “They looked forward to spring and being able to ride their bikes and hang out with their friends. Today we are all wondering how to tell our kids and grandkids that their friends have passed on.”
Moody also went out of his way to thank members of the RCMP and other first responders for doing their jobs on Saturday night and Sunday morning.
“No one ever wants to be the ones to have to attend a scene of fatalities involving children,” he wrote.
In an interview with CBC News, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North also offered condolences and said these deaths could have been avoided if the roads in these surrounding communities were better maintained.
"That particular area, the roads are in desperate need of repair and other communities around it," she said. "The lighting within the community needs better infrastructure for people to see better in the dark. But still, I don't know if even those things would have avoided such a tragedy at this time."
Since news of the incident broke on Sunday, NCN and residents of Nelson House have received widespread words of support from a different groups and individuals, including Grand Chief Arlen Dumas and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Chief Perry Bellegarde and the Assembly of First Nations and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.
While this week will prove to be difficult for the community as a whole, Moody said that NCN is in the middle of planning different events and services to help residents deal with their collective grief.
“All of us are affected as we are friends and family of the three boys or we are friends of their families,” he wrote. “More than ever we must come together as a community and help each other make it through this senseless tragedy.”
* This story has been edited to correct the spelling of two of the boys' names.