Four young people killed in an accident early Saturday morning were celebrating one of the deceased's birthday in a car given to him by his mother, a relative said Sunday.

The bodies of Marie-Hélène Gauvin, 17, of Pointe Canot,  Tommy Losier, 18, of Ste-Rose, Brian Basque, 19, also of Ste-Rose and Alexandre McGraw, 20, of Losier Settlement were pulled from the frigid waters of the Tracadie River on Saturday afternoon.

Jean-Claude Doiron said the friends were out celebrating his nephew's birthday at the time of the accident. Basque had just turned 19.

"His mother bought him this car for his birthday," Dorion told CBC News."They were having fun …a party.

"It's real hard for her ... at this time of the year it's not a good thing to happen. We tried to help her if we can, but this is going to be a real hard week for her."

With limited accessibility to the site, first responders and an RCMP underwater-recovery team spent hours trying to reach the vehicle.

On Sunday, there was a sombre atmosphere outside Saint-Jean-Baptiste and Saint-Joseph church in Tracadie-Sheila as the tight-knit town filed in for mass, CBC's Matthew Bingley reported.

"It's not only Tracadie-Sheila that's affected," said Mayor Aldéoda Losier. "I heard from some people … from Paquetville. People feel bad this time of year where Christmas is just at the door and having to go through this event."

A Facebook page encouraged Tracadie-Sheila residents to turn off their Christmas lights as a sign of respect for the victims. Losier told CBC News many people participated.

Reporters were shown the site of the crash on Sunday. "RIP" and a few names are scribbled on makeshift planks blocking a hole on the bridge.

Officials said the backwoods road was icy the night of the crash.