Thousands gathered at a funeral service Tuesday afternoon in Cap-Pelé, N.B., to mourn four teenage friends who died in a single-vehicle accident early Saturday.
Luc Arsenault, 17, and Justin Léger, Sebastien Léger, and Justin Brown, all 18, died when the car they were in veered off the road and struck a culvert in Notre-Dame early on Saturday morning.
Mayor Debbie Dodier says the loss hits everyone hard in the fishing village of 2,300.
"You never believe it would happen at your place and always assume it's going to happen somewhere else," she said.
Dodier is also the principal of the local elementary school and knew the boys from the time they entered kindergarten.
She said their connection to the community deepened as they grew older and she had hoped they would lead the community in years to come.[IMAGE]
"We have people that are going to take over in five, 10, 15 years," she said. "Those young boys were the ones that were — four of them that were going to take over as leaders in the community.
"Unfortunately, we lost four good possible leaders."
Students at Louis J. Robichaud High School in Shediac gathered to grieve Monday. Arsenault was a student at the school, and the other three friends graduated in June.
Principal Luc Michaud said staff were on hand to offer comfort and support to the students.
"As you can imagine, it's pretty tough right now," he said. "I think it was a long day. Kids are going through something that would be their first time for most of them to go through grief like this."
Emily O'Brien, a classmate of Arsenault's, said the strong community support is helping people cope with overwhelming tragedy.
"It’s hard right now to process all the information. I’m still in shock. I don’t really believe it but you know, it is what it is and we’re here to support each other," she said before the service.
All four were involved with hockey. Patrick Boleyn, a member of their high school hockey team, the Patriots, said the team is trying to be strong.
“Our coach tells us we have to be really close together and make sure we have each other, because Fabian, Justin Leger’s brother, he’s on our team and he’s our goalie," he said. "So we have to be really close and really strong for him.”
The funeral service took place Tuesday afternoon at Ste-Thérese d'Avila Church in Cap Pelé.
Rev. Louis-Joseph Boudreau hoped to help people grapple with the tragedy. He said the boys loved life and shared that love with their community.
"How joyful these four friends were, among themselves, and also they were sort of the life of the party and at school they had that gift of being life-giving in a sense."