New Brunswick

Tragic accident in Grand Manan inspires chart-topping song

A popular Canadian country song that's topping the charts was inspired by tragic events that happened on Grand Manan during the summer of 2014.

Song inspired by story of student Danielle Park who died in 2014 accident

Student Danielle Park was killed in an accident on Grand Manan in June 2014 which inspired the song. (Submitted by Carla Ward)

A popular Canadian country song that's topping the charts was inspired by tragic events that happened on Grand Manan during the summer of 2014.

"I just think it's remarkable because the song could be about anywhere," said Carla Ward, a teacher at Grand Manan Community School. 

"I just think it's amazing how Tenille [Townes] just kept coming back to us and helped in keeping us a part of it."

Tenille Townes, an up-and-coming Canadian musician, wrote Jersey on the Wall after she was inspired by the story of Danielle Park, the 2014 valedictorian at Grand Manan Community School and a star basketball player. 

Danielle’s brother Hunter Park, left, with teacher Carla Ward, student Zoey Middleton, country music singer Tenille Townes, Chantal Middleton, and students Gabrielle Middleton and Paige Linton. (Submitted by Carla Ward)

She was killed in a car accident on the island that summer. Four other students were involved in the crash but survived.

"It was just a really horrific summer that we had and so when we brought Tenille to Grand Manan, we were looking for something that was not so much focusing on that — we wanted to bring something that was going to be have a positive light," Ward said. 

The song reached number one on the CBC Music Top 20 as of Friday.

After the tragic summer, Grand Manan Community School invited Townes to give a keynote speech as part of its anti-bullying campaign.

That's when Ward told the singer about the tragic summer they'd had. 

"There were a couple of the students that she had been working with closely throughout the course of that day [who] were in the accident and she was just overwhelmed with how amazing these students were and how they were so resilient," Ward said.

A few years later, Townes returned to the island to visit the school, which is when she noticed Park's jersey hanging on the wall in the school gym. A year later, the singer contacted Ward to let her know that she had written a song inspired by Park.

She then asked Ward to ask Park's parents if she could share the song. 

"They had given their blessing for her to go ahead with it," Ward said. "It was just in the making stages at that point and now it's getting played all over."

The video for the song features Park's jersey in a school gym and photos of the musician's time on the island. Ward said she is now an honourary Grand Mananer and is still in contact with her and some of the students.

"It's amazing that even though her career has taken off, she still can take the time to remember all of us on this little island [who] she met five years ago," Ward said.

With files from Shift New Brunswick

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