Families mark anniversary of fatal N.B. hayride

Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of a fatal hayride in southeastern New Brunswick that killed 13 members of two families gathered for a reunion.

13 members of the Leger and McGraw families were killed, 45 injured

Archive video of Cormier Village hayride disaster. ((CBC))
Thursday marks a tragic anniversary for a small community in southeastern New Brunswick.

It was 20 years ago that members of the Leger and McGraw families, who were gathered for a reunion in Cormier Village, spontaneously decided to go for a hayride to look at fall colours.

A few minutes later, a tractor trailer carrying tonnes of logs lost its load while negotiating a sharp turn on the tranquil country road.

The logs came crashing down on the wagon carrying the two families.

Thirteen people were killed and 45 were injured.

"Bodies all over both sides of the road and in the ditches, and I can remember one person was hanging off the boom of the truck," recalled Marty LeClair, who was one of the first police officers on the scene.
Marty LeClair stands in front of the monument to the Cormier Village tragedy. ((CBC))

"And I walked into this scene and … phew … just a lot of hurting people.

"A lot of blood, moaning, groaning .… It's something that's pretty hard to forget."

Among the victims was Maria Leger. She woke up in a field, not sure what had happened.

"Everything was so silent, the sky was so beautiful, but I thought I was dreaming," she said.

"And then I saw my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law and some nephews going by and a doctor that I knew. and they were so sad, and I couldn't realize why they were so sad."

It was only after Leger got to the hospital that she discovered her 11-year-old son Martin had been killed.

Struggle to heal

The next few years were difficult, said Leger, who suffered broken ribs and whose husband and daughter were also injured. But the families supported each other.

Today, as she looks at pictures of Martin, she remembers the energetic boy with the sense of humour and big heart.

And while the sadness will never leave, she said she's no longer stuck in the past.

"I don't think any of them who are gone would like us to just stay there and not live because they're not here anymore," she said.

"I think that when you really love someone, as we have loved those people inside, there's a connection that is never broken. It continues and a part of them will stay with us."

There haven't been any big reunions since that day, just gatherings to remember those who died, said Leger.

But she hopes one day they'll be able to gather to celebrate once again.

Meanwhile, the victims are frozen in time at a monument dedicated to their memory, their faces etched in stone.

So while they may be gone, they will never be forgotten.