As people in Bathurst, N.B., struggled to deal with the highway accident deaths of seven young basketball players and a teacher, plans were being made Sunday to hold a public wake and funeral service this week.
The preliminary arrangements include a wake at a local hockey rink on Tuesday, with visitations at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. AT, and a public funeral the following afternoon.
People in the community have been in shock over the crash, which occurred shortly after midnight Saturday and killed the Bathurst High School students and a woman who taught at another school. They died when their van slammed head-on into a transport truck on an icy road.
A memorial group for Bathurst High School students was created on Facebook.com, the social networking website.
One entry said, "Know that you are not alone in this tragedy. The country cries with you."
Five of those who died — Nathan Cleland, Justin Cormier, Daniel Hains, Javier Acevedo and Codey Branch — were 17 years old. The other two students were Nickolas Quinn, 16, and Nicholas Kelly, 15.
The woman who died was 51-year-old Elizabeth Lord. Her husband, the team's coach, was among four survivors. He was treated and released from hospital early Saturday.
Two players remained in hospital in stable condition on Sunday, along with the couple's daughter, who was moved from the intensive-care unit after her condition was upgraded to stable.
The coach, who was driving the van, was slightly injured, but well enough to attend a United Church service.
While the sun was shining brightly in Bathurst on Sunday morning, the mood of people throughout the small city of just under 13,000 was dark. Flags were at half-mast at many businesses. Storefront signs passed on condolences to the families of the eight victims.
'It's become a place for all of us to deal with our loss.'—Supt. John McLaughlin, Bathurst High School
Makeshift memorials of flowers and candles were appearing in the town and at the high school, while a steady stream of cars was spotted driving by the site of the accident on the highway, which leads into the city.
People were stopping to put down flowers and light candles near the snow still littered with debris from the violent crash. A makeshift basketball court was erected Sunday at the site where several bouquets were stuffed into one of the nets.
Classes Monday optional
Grief counsellors from throughout the region remained on the job on Sunday at Bathurst High School, where 800 students attend classes. School officials said that process will continue throughout the day.
They said classes will resume on Monday, but only for those who wish to attend.
School Supt. John McLaughlin said that Bathurst High School has received hundreds of students, parents and friends over the past two days.
"It's become a place for all of us to deal with our loss, and we're now completing plans for school to open tomorrow," he said.
He added that the school has a response plan to deal with the accident, and that in addition to the school staff there will be an additional 20 people from other school districts who will be present to help students.
"We could not begin the healing process without that support," he said.
McLaughlin also said officials will look at the policies and practices surrounding travel by school sports teams in the future.
"But it's too early for that now," he said