High school student and his parents killed in Peterborough-area crash, school board says

The Ontario Provincial Police have identified four people who died in a head-on crash near Peterborough on Tuesday afternoon. Three of them were a high school student and his parents, according to a local school board.

Ontario Provincial Police identified victims on Wednesday

Ontario Provincial Police have identified the victims of a head-on crash east of Peterborough. The OPP said Stephanie Hart, 52, Jonathan MacDonnell, 46, and Riddick Hart, 18, died. A local school board identified them, along with a daughter, second from left, who was critically injured as members of the same family. (GoFundMe)

A high school student and his parents were killed in a head-on crash east of Peterborough on Tuesday, while his sister was sent to hospital, according to a local school board.

The collision between an SUV and a pickup truck happened on Highway 7 near Drummond Line at about 5:15 p.m. Ontario Provincial Police identified the victims on Wednesday.

Riddick Hart, 18, Jonathan MacDonnell, 46, and Stephanie Hart, 52, of Otonabee-South Monaghan Township, died in the crash, the OPP said in a news release on Wednesday. All three were in the SUV.

Jason Schmidt, 42, of Hastings, also died, the OPP said. He was driving the pickup truck.

A young female passenger in the SUV was taken to a Toronto-area hospital with life-threatening injuries, the OPP added. 

Rita Russo, director of education for the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, said in a message on Wednesday that the family was part of the Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School (TAS) community.

One of the parents who died was a staff member at the high school, while the injured girl who was airlifted to hospital, was also a student, she said.

A road closure sign was erected near the scene of the crash on Tuesday night. (CBC)

"We are shocked and saddened by this difficult news and the many profound and permanent impacts this tragic event has for so many in our community," Russo said in the message.

"We offer our deepest condolences to family, friends and the entire TAS community. Our thoughts are also focused on the family member, our student, currently being treated in hospital, as we all hope for a positive outcome."

Near the scene on Tuesday night, police said one vehicle was headed east, while the other vehicle was headed west. How the crash happened is still under investigation.

Russo said flags were lowered to half-mast on Wednesday at the high school, the school board education centre and other schools in honour of the family members who died.

The school board is providing mental health clinicians for students and staff at the high school and other schools affected by the crash, she said.

Family was 'really, really close,' friend says

Jess Vandenberg, a choreographer and actor, said the parents would do anything to further the artistic dreams of their children.

Vandenberg, who used to work at the now closed Peterborough Performing Arts Centre, taught dance to Riddick and his sister. She has known the family, known in the community as the MacHarts, for nearly a decade.

"I mean they were a really, really close family," she said in an interview from Morrisburg, Ont.

"Jon and Steph would do anything for those kids," Vandenberg said. 

"They were driving around Ontario. They've gone down to the states. They've done countless dance competitions, singing lessons, acting lessons. Whatever they wanted to do, they would figure it out and they would make it happen to make sure they could have the best shot at their dreams."

She said the news of the deaths is "really devastating" and an "absolute tragedy."

How the crash happened is still under investigation. (CBC)

"It just doesn't feel quite real. It's very shocking," she said. "I'm just really angry at this point. We don't quite know what happened but it's just not fair."

This past Sunday, all four family members were on stage together cast in a production of High School Musical at Stephen Leacock Theatre in Keswick. The play is being put on by the Queensville Players.

Melody Thomas, a music teacher and studio owner in Peterborough, said she gave singing lessons to Riddick and she was supposed to have a lesson with him on Wednesday.

"Riddick was one of the most charismatic, energetic, passionate, loving people that I had ever met."

With files from Muriel Draaisma and Dale Manucdoc