Nfld. & Labrador

Lark Harbour residents in shock after husband, wife killed by alleged impaired driver

A husband and wife are dead, an alleged impaired driver is in police custody and a community is in mourning following a shocking incident on a quiet street in Lark Harbour, N.L., during the early hours of Boxing Day.

Couple was walking from family gathering when struck

Lark Harbour town hall, as seen in a 2013 file photo. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

A husband and wife are dead, an alleged impaired driver is in police custody, and a community is in mourning following a shocking incident on a quiet street in Lark Harbour, N.L., early Boxing Day.

A well-known couple from the community were walking home from a family Christmas celebration on Little Port Road when they were struck and killed by a vehicle not long after midnight on Dec. 26.

They were minutes away from their home when tragedy struck.

The deaths of 59-year-old Merle Sheppard and 51-year-old Marilyn Sheppard has sent shockwaves through the community of roughly 500 people.

A road sign for Little Port Road, as seen in a 2013 file photo. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

 A 45-year-old resident of Fort McMurray, Alta., who was home in Lark Harbour visiting family, is behind bars charged with impaired driving causing death.

Police have confirmed the accused has deep family connections with the couple, and CBC News has learned he is the brother-in-law of the woman who died.

All three were leaving the same family gathering.

The accused is being held in police custody, and will appear in court on Wednesday morning.

First-responders a top priority

Grief counsellors from Western Health and the Salvation Army are in the community, with Lark Harbour Mayor Jamie Park describing it as a "worst-case scenario."

Park said the well-being of first responders, including the volunteer fire department, is a top priority.

"The Town of Lark Harbour has been faced with this really sad tragedy that has happened. We're trying to deal with this situation the best that we can," he said.

Lark Harbour and the neighbouring community of York Harbour share a fire department, and some of those responding to the scene were relatives or friends of the couple.

Lark Harbour is located in the Bay of Islands, about 50 kilometres west of Corner Brook, on the western coast of Newfoundland. (CBC)

Park says the Sheppards were lifelong residents of Lark Harbour, and have an adult son and a "large circle of family and friends." Both worked in the fishing industry.

"They're very quiet people. They've been always here to help others in their community. They're very hard working individuals. So it's going to take some time for everyone to get over this," he said.

"We're just devastated."

Little Port Road is a typical residential street with dozens of homes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.

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