Neighbours come together to create memorial for teens killed in southwestern Manitoba tornado

Shayna Barnesky and Carter Tilbury, both 18, were killed when the pickup truck they were in was swept up by a twister on Aug. 7. Now, a memorial to the teens has been placed near where the twister touched down.

Shayna Barnesky and Carter Tilbury, both 18, were killed when a tornado touched down near Scarth on Aug. 7

A memorial was recently erected near Scarth, Man., in honour of Melita teens Shayna Barnesky and Carter Tilbury, both 18. They died after a tornado swept up the truck they were in near Scarth on Aug. 7. (Submitted by Rob and Lisa Gilliland)

Rob and Lisa Gilliland knew they wanted to help create a memorial for two teens killed when a tornado hit southwestern Manitoba this summer.

"It's really heartbreaking," said Rob Gilliland, who lives in Scarth, Man. "That's kind of the reason my wife and I felt we should do something here for them, for the families and friends of the kids especially."

The EF-3 tornado touched down just outside Scarth — a community about 13 kilometres south of Virden — on the evening of Aug. 7.

Shayna Barnesky and Carter Tilbury, both 18 and from nearby Melita, were pronounced dead at the scene after the pickup truck they were in was swept up by the twister.

Rob Gilliland says his wife discussed creating a permanent memorial for the victims' families, and for the community.

"My wife actually came up with the idea to do something, so I spoke to a couple friends and neighbours," Gilliland says.  

"They participated in putting it together with us, and so we placed it just on the east side of [Highway] 83," near the Trans-Canada Highway. It is erected on his neighbour John Colangelo's property, which suffered damage from the twister.

Shayna Barnesky posted this photo of her and Carter Tilbury on Facebook on June 28. Gilliland says he hopes the memorial for the teens will encourage people 'just to have heartfelt compassion for the two families.' (Shayna Barnesky/Facebook)

The memorial features an oak plank engraved with the words "In Remembrance," along with Barnesky and Tilbury's names and the date of the deadly tornado.

Gilliland remembers vividly where he was and what he was doing when the tornado struck.

"We were just with the family watching TV upstairs, and we had the alert come across the TV and the phones," he recalled.

"We are a mile off the highway and it headed for our house."

He says the tornado veered northeast of their home, just missing it, but still causing a small amount of damage.

Gilliland says it's common to get severe weather alerts in the area during the summer, but he never imagined a tornado that would strike with such force, or claim lives.

"You get five or six of those [alerts] every summer … and I think you get complacent about that kind of stuff," Gilliland said.

The memorial for the teens is near highways 1 and 83. (Submitted by Rob and Lisa Gilliland)

Gilliland reached out to Shayna Barnesky's mother about the memorial as a courtesy to the families.

"I didn't want to step on anybody's toes and be improper, and so I asked what she felt of it."

He says the families have expressed their gratitude to all those involved.  

Gilliland wants people who drive by to remember the two young people who lost their lives that day, and "just to have heartfelt compassion for the two families."

"Because when it happened it was so shocking.  It was so devastating."


Marjorie Dowhos is the host of CBC Manitoba's Radio Noon. She is an RTNDA award-winning reporter. Marjorie joined CBC Manitoba in 2010. Prior to that, she was an anchor, reporter and videojournalist in Thunder Bay, Ont., Medicine Hat, AB., Fort McMurray, AB., and Fort St. John, B.C. Marjorie is also the host of the CBC podcast 'Jets Stream'.