Sudbury community mourns death of two men in boating accident

Transport Canada will help Sudbury police investigate the weekend boating accident that killed two men on Lake Wanapitei near the community of Skead in Greater Sudbury.

The two men who died grew up in Skead, Ont., have families in the area.

Tony's Marina in Skead, is owned by the late Mike Kritz's father. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

Transport Canada will help Sudbury police investigate the weekend boating accident that killed two men on Lake Wanapitei near the community of Skead in Greater Sudbury.

The federal agency will likely investigate the remains of the boat and assess the scene of the crash for clues.

It's still not known why the boat in which Matt Humeniuk 33, and Mike Kritz, 34, were travelling crashed into an island at about 1 a.m. Sunday.

Two other passengers were on the boat at the time. One remains in critical condition in hospital. The other was treated for injuries that were not life threatening.

Funerals for both men will be held on Friday. Visitation by family and friends will be held Thursday afternoon.

Both Kritz and Humeniuk grew up in Skead, and their families are well-known in the community. Kritz’s father, Jim, is the owner of Tony’s Marina, where a fireworks show for the community was held the night of the accident.

Word of the tragedy quickly spread across the small town. Melissa Berndt used to visit Mike Kritz at his father’s marina when she was a child.

Skead resident Jack Vendetti (Hilary Duff/CBC)

"I’d go down there to buy bait or just … to check on the lake and I’d see him and he was just a happy guy," she said. "It’s a tragedy."

Berndt said she was shocked to find out about Kritz’s death.

"I couldn’t believe it, I had just seen him," she said.

Jack Vendetti is a neighbour of the Humeniuk’s and had known both men since they were young children.

The two were inseparable boating friends, Vendetti said, and also had their own yard maintenance business when they were teenagers.

"They were well liked in Skead. Everyone had respect for them," he said. "They’d be the first ones out on the lake with their canoe … They’re going to be missed, and there’s going to be some heavy hearts for quite a while."

According to Berndt and Vendetti, the size of the community meant everyone was in some way affected by the weekend crash.

Berndt recalled seeing police cars and ambulances pass her on the way to the accident scene in the early hours of Sunday morning, and said she dreaded the reason for their visit.

Skead resident Melissa Berndt. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

"Usually when you see that, especially in a small community like this where you know everyone, your heart kind of drops," she said. "I really didn’t go asleep until about 3 a.m. that night because I was so worried."

"I really couldn’t picture what [their families] are going through right now," she added. After seeing those ambulances and hearing what happened, that’s all that can run through my head and it’s absolutely heartbreaking."

Choppy water not an issue

Lake Wanapitei is one of the largest and deepest lakes in Greater Sudbury, and is notorious for choppy waters on windy days.

However, water conditions should not have been an issue on the night of the accident, said Skead resident Leslie Dickson.

"Things were calm and quite lovely, but it was dark," she said. "You can either run into other boats or shoals or land if you’re not really, really cautious."

Boating conditions are also dependent on how much light is coming from the moon, Dickson said, and added that she didn’t notice much natural light on the Saturday evening.

Every shoal on Lake Wanapitei has been recently marked, however these markers are only visible during the day, and are not reflective or illuminated at night.

Other recent fatality

Skead residents have become all too familiar with tragedy.

On May 31, 2013, an Ornge Air Ambulance helicopter crashed near Moosonee, killing four men, including Captain Don Filliter, the 54-year-old pilot from Skead.

Lanterns created by some Skead residents to commemorate Mike Kritz and Matthew Humeniuk.

Residents had been commemorating that incident, tying black and yellow ribbons – Ministry of Natural Resources colours – on sign posts and mail boxes throughout the town.

"Everyone’s still trying to cope with the death of Don," Berndt said, of the close family friend. "For this [boating accident] to happen so soon after, everyone’s just kind of in shock. Everyone's just trying to grieve and help the family out as best they can."

Still, Berndt said she’s confident incidents like this can only make the community tighter.

"Skead is a really strong town," she said. "So I believe when a tragedy does happen like this, we end up getting closer."