The community in the small Acadian village of Cap-Pelé in southeastern New Brunswick is in shock after four teenagers from the area died in a terrifying car crash early Saturday morning.
RCMP said the teens were in a four-door sedan that veered off Highway 115 shortly after midnight, hit a culvert, and rolled over several times in Notre-Dame.
As news trickled out during the day, friends gathered at the site of accident about 50 kilometres away from Cap-Pelé. Three of the victims are 18 years old; the fourth is 17.
"It’s tough," Emilie O’Brien said. "We grew up together, and seeing one of your best friends go is really hard."
The high school in Shediac that serves students in the area was supposed to host a formal Christmas ball Saturday night. That’s been cancelled, but Polyvalente Louis-J.-Robichaud remains open for students to gather and grieve.
Grief counsellors are on hand and flags at the school are at half-mast.
"Just the smallest things can happen so fast," O’Brien said. "Now they’re gone and you realize that life is precious and we’ve got take care of each other and be careful."
Cap-Pelé Mayor Debbie Dodier said members of the community of 2,300 were gathering to mourn the tragic loss.
"Right now, the whole municipality is in shock," she said in an interview. "It's four families that lost their child, but there's more families that are touched by it."
Dodier said the boys were friends and all played different levels of hockey.
"They were really good kids," said Dodier, who is also the principal at the community's École Donat-Robichaud, where some of the young men had attended.
"They were normal kids. Normal kids that liked to play hockey, had dirt bikes. They were just average kids."
Dodier said one of the boys was graduating this year from Polyvalente Louis-J.-Robichaud.
The crash happened around 12:40 a.m. One neighbour at the scene said he tried to help the victims, but could do little to save their lives.
"I tried to pry the door open and see," Charlie Lewis said. "I was talking to 911 and they were asking me if I could get anybody out of the car, and I couldn’t."
Three of the people weren’t wearing seat belts and were ejected, RCMP said. All four died at the scene and police said speed was a factor in the crash.
Lewis said speeding along the roadway has been a longstanding problem. He said some cars and motorcycles whip by at 120 kilometres an hour or more.
Autopsies are scheduled for Monday.