A northern Manitoba community is grieving after three young boys were struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver who fled the scene Saturday night.
A 13-year-old and two 11-year-olds were on Provincial Road 620, two kilometres north of Nelson House, when they were hit by a vehicle with five people in it around 10:30 p.m., RCMP said.
Investigators said two of the children were walking and one was riding a bike on the road at the time.
The children died at the scene and when officers arrived, they found the vehicle empty.
“There was no driver or occupants at the time, as they had fled the scene. Within a short period of time, the four occupants returned back to the scene and provided information back to police about who the driver was, as he had fled on foot,” said RCMP spokesman Sgt. Paul Menaigre. “I guess they went after him, but he took off.”
Information spread quickly through the community and by midnight, the driver walked into the Nelson House RCMP detachment and turned himself over to two officers, who were on their way to continue looking for him.
The alleged driver, who is a 27-year-old member of the Nelson House community, was arrested without incident and remains in police custody.
“He’ll be facing numerous charges, including fleeing the scene of an accident and numerous impaired driving-related charges,” Menaigre said.
“We’ve conducted tests and determined he was impaired by alcohol.”
Menaigre expected charges would be laid by Monday.
He said in situations like this, the community is likely to feel shock, anger and grief.
“Alcohol is involved, it could have easily been prevented. So there could be anger in the community, because we’re at the stage of not understanding ‘why’ – that’s the anger part – and then eventually there’s the grieving process. We want to get as much information as we can figured out quickly, so they can begin that process,” he said.
Grand Chief Sheila North of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, a political advocacy organization, said several staff members from Nelson House are grieving.
“Everyone knows each other and it’s a growing, prospering community,” North said of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, which is based in Nelson House.
“They’re very heartbroken and shocked. I talked to the 1/8Nisichawayasihk 3/8 Chief Marcel Moody as well. He says the whole community is deeply saddened and in complete shock that the boys have succumbed to this kind of tragedy. His own grandsons are friends with those kids so it’s very close to home for the chief,” she said.
North said the leadership is very progressive and in tune with the community’s needs, but it can only do the best it can without more funding for infrastructure projects like street lighting.
Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, sent condolences to members of the community on Sunday.
“My heart goes out to the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and the families of three young boys tragically killed last night while out for a bike ride. Extending love and support to all who knew them,” Bellegarde wrote on Twitter.
Others also tweeted their support for the community.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister posted his thoughts: “Our hearts go out to the families of three young boys who left us far too soon. To the entire community of Nelson House and NCN, we mourn this heartbreaking loss with you.”
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs tweeted condolences on behalf of Grand Chief Arlen Dumas and assembly members.
Nelson House is about 800 kilometres north of Winnipeg and 80 kilometres west of Thompson, Man. It is made up of four reserves, according to the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation’s website.
The Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation has around 4,600 members.