Sister of N.W.T. man killed in collision calls for cell service along Highway 3

The death of a Behchokǫ̀, N.W.T., man in a New Year's Eve collision on Highway 3 has his sister calling for cellphone service to be established along that stretch of road.

45-year-old Kelly Washie is being remembered as a kind man with a great sense of humour

Kelly Washie, 45, was killed last week after being struck by a tractor trailer on Highway 3 between Yellowknife and Behchokǫ̀. (Submitted by Joyce Washie)

A Behchokǫ̀, N.W.T., man killed in a fatal New Year's Eve collision on Highway 3 is being remembered as a kind man with a great sense of humour. 

And Kelly Washie's sister is also pushing for cellphone service along the stretch of highway where her brother died.

Washie, 45, was in a vehicle about 25 kilometres outside of Yellowknife on Highway 3 with his sister Joyce, when they pulled over to the side of the road so he could have a cigarette outside.

Joyce Washie says shortly after her brother went outside, a tractor-trailer truck drove past them. 

Several minutes later, with no sign of her brother, she went outside to check on him. 

"I went out and started calling for him, looking for him. Then I seen him on the snowbank," Washie recalled.

Washie said her brother wasn't responsive. She says the tractor trailer had parked further ahead and the driver was running toward her.

Joyce Washie, at far right, says her brother Kelly, at far left, was always willing to help out around the community and had a great sense of humour. (Submitted by Joyce Washie)

She and the driver tried to call for help but there is currently no cell phone service on the 100-kilometre stretch of highway between Yellowknife and Behchokǫ̀.

She began flagging down any vehicles that passed and asked them to call for help once they got into service range. 

Joyce waited on the side of the road with her brother for over an hour before an ambulance from Yellowknife arrived. He was pronounced dead a short while later.

"[Kelly] was a really kind person. He likes to help out a lot, especially at the church," his sister says.

"When Father Pochat was alive, he would always shovel, no matter what. Even if it was really windy. He did a lot of work around [Father Pochat's] house." 

Washie is now calling for cellular service to be established along Highway 3. It's the same call Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty made to the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly in October. 

Highway 3 between Yellowknife and Fort Providence in March 2018. (Walter Strong/CBC)

"This cellphone problem is a simple solution, but it requires government action. It requires government action now, or human lives will surely be lost," Lafferty said in the legislature.

Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek responded to Lafferty's concerns then by saying her department had looked into the cost of installing cell service but that nothing had been finalized. 

CBC has requested an update on the Department of Finance's work but has yet to hear back.