WINNIPEG – The crosses on the side of the road stick out as tombstones driving down Highway 207, near Lorette.
That small stretch of road, that passes through the town 30 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg, has become a veritable graveyard. RCMP say there have been five fatal crashes in five years. The latest victim is 17-year-old Colin Roer, who was killed in a Sunday morning crash near the intersection of Highway 207 and Provincial Road 31.
Roer was the passenger in a car that rolled over and RCMP said alcohol is believed to be involved. The driver of the car has been taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. No charges have yet been filed on the incident.
“This has affected more than just the immediate family. It’s a community and friends,” said Michelle Sauve, Roer’s former manager at Lorette’s Co-Op gas station.
Sauve said Roer’s work family, along with the rest of the tight-knit town remains in shock. She also works as a driver’s ed teacher and added that messages of not drinking and driving are not getting through to students.
“I think some of them think they’re invincible. I think some of them think ‘It’s not going to happen to us.’ They’re just not in that moment until something happens.”
Manitoba Public Insurance said 75 people were killed on Manitoba’s roads in 2015. MPI has reported that 2015’s figure has already been surpassed this year and there are still two months left in the calendar year.
News of another person killed by impaired driving re-opens the wound for Kelly Fright. Fright’s daughter was killed by a suspected drunk driver on June 26. The 29-year-old was returning home to the R.M. of St. Anne after working a late shift when her car was struck by a pick-up truck. An 18-year-old man has been charged with a litany of offences, including impaired driving, in the crash.
“I wish I could’ve said ‘Goodbye’ one more time. But I can’t. I can’t hug her no more. Can’t say goodnight to her no more,” Fright said, as tears rolled down his cheeks.
Visiting the site of his daughter’s death takes an emotional toll on the heartbroken father. Fright said he lives a “nightmare” everyday and hearing of another person killed on the road brings up difficult memories.
“It’s really tough to go on without her. My wife and I are having a really difficult time. I feel really bad for the parents of the young man who lost his life on the weekend,” Fright said.
There are several theories by nearby residents why Highway 207 has seen many fatalities: the single lane highway puts opposing drivers close to one another, that drivers often speed, that the twisting road allows little space for drivers to pass one another.
The most common explanation is also the most preventable one: impaired driving is common on rural roads. Families and friends of lost loved ones, like the Fright family are urging people to not get behind the wheel if they’ve had anything to drink.
“It takes one phone call and you’re okay. And whoever else is on the road, they’re okay. [Death by drinking and driving] doesn’t need to happen.”