Alberta shootings claim 2 P.E.I. ballplayers

RCMP in southern Alberta are expected to release more details on how four people were killed, and another badly injured, in an apparent murder-suicide along a busy Alberta highway.

Tanner Craswell and Mitch MacLean were on their way home for Christmas

A vehicle that is part of an RCMP investigation into the shooting deaths near Claresholm, Alta., 125 kilometres south of Calgary, is towed away from the scene. (Bal Brach/CBC)

RCMP in southern Alberta were expected to release more details Friday on how four people were killed, and another badly injured, in an apparent murder-suicide along a busy Alberta highway.

Charlottetown-area residents Tanner Craswell, 22, and Mitch MacLean, 20, baseball players who were living in Lethbridge and on their way home for Christmas, were among those killed.

Another man, who was in a separate car, was found dead at the scene and had apparently shot himself, several media reports said.

One woman was killed, and another is in the Foothills Medical Centre hospital with gunshot wounds, and expected to recover.

RCMP said Thursday it appears a man committed suicide, and was found dead at the scene, after apparently shooting four people. The woman and one of the men were killed at the scene, and the other man died later in a Calgary hospital.

Police, following up on reports of gunfire, came across a car and an SUV in a ditch at 3:30 a.m. local time Thursday on Highway 2 south of Calgary and discovered the bodies.

Footprints and blood were still visible in the snow along the highway hours after the event that has shocked the nearby community of Claresholm.

Tanner Craswell, 22, and Mitch MacLean, 20, were both originally from the Charlottetown area. (College of Southern Idaho Athletics/Pointstreak)

In an earlier press release, RCMP said they had only found two people dead at the scene and one person died later in hospital. They changed that to say three people were found dead at the scene — a man who likely committed suicide and two victims — and one man later died in hospital.

Craswell, who was celebrating his birthday, and his friend MacLean lived with Kevin Kvame, the manager of their baseball team, the Lethbridge Bulls.

Kvame said the two young men came back to his place near midnight, grabbed their bags, and set out for Calgary airport with a girlfriend and her friend to make the two-hour car trip to the Calgary airport.

Despite speculation in the area, RCMP said there was no apparent connection to a house fire in Claresholm, a community located roughly 125 kilometres south of Calgary.

People in Charlottetown and Lethbridge are mourning the death of the two ballplayers. Friends in Alberta told CBC News they'll remember two kind guys who loved baseball so much that they would even play in the snow.

In Charlottetown, Matt Hood, who grew up with Craswell and MacLean, said they shared a love of baseball. Hood said even the snow didn't stop the two ballplayers from giving Hood's younger brothers a practice session.

"Tanner and Mitch would have a catch with them in the dead of winter with snow up to their shins … just to help them out," he said. "That's the kind of people they were."

Allison MacDonald, who coached MacLean on the Islanders senior baseball team in the summer of 2010, said MacLean was preparing to head to the U.S. to play college ball this winter.

Claresholm Mayor David Moore said he has been told by authorities that no local people were involved in the incident.

Community reacts

Brent Chimko, who has lived in Claresholm for 10 years, said he was shocked by the news.

"I've never seen anything like this. I've seen traffic accidents on the highway that have been bad, but nothing quite like this."

Another resident, Ellen Duplissie, said a big day in town is when someone steals a car or Christmas lights.

Don Russell agreed it's a nice community.

"It's just needless violence and there's just no reason for it, that I can see, anyway," he said.

The RCMP major crimes unit was leading the investigation at the scene on Thursday morning, said Sgt. Patrick Webb.

"In addition to the Claresholm detachment … there are probably 10 to 15 officers dedicated to this investigation," said Webb, adding the identification section was also on the scene.

Highway 2 was temporarily closed but has since reopened.