Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Highway horror shatters town

Teen killed, 4 hurt walking to a party

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THE community of Warren is grieving the loss of a high school student who died Sunday after he and four friends were struck by a pickup truck on a highway outside Winnipeg.

Michael Lindell, a Grade 12 student at Warren Collegiate, was fatally injured and the four others were hurt when hit while walking down Highway 221 to a house party at a farm property about 12 kilometres northwest of the city.

A 21-year old driver, who was going to the same party as the five people who were hit, was charged yesterday with 12 impaired driving-related charges.

Two of the four teens still in hospital remained in critical condition yesterday and the other two were in serious condition with non-life-threatening injuries.

Lindell died Sunday afternoon, about 12 hours after the collision.

All the teens attended classes at Warren Collegiate.

"The whole town is in a state of shock. This has definitely taken its toll on all of us," said Janet Coggan, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe in Warren, which is about 35 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

"It's a small town and everyone knows everyone. We know the boy that was killed and his family, but also the driver and his family. So it's doubly hard."

RCMP Cpl. Joanne Ryll said the five teens were hit without warning by a westbound truck.

Ryll said the roadway was dark and the five victims were walking down the middle of the paved highway.

"You're not anticipating people on the roadway," she said. "At the same time, you've got a bunch of kids together on the road. They're talking to each other and not paying attention to what's on the road."

Warren Collegiate principal Ed Harvie said students spent part of yesterday talking about what happened and rumours were quelled.

"These kids were in the wrong place at the wrong time and unfortunately our kids had to pay," Harvie said. "Hopefully, the others will come out of it OK."

He said Lindell had recently returned to the Warren area from Ontario so he could continue his classes and graduate this spring with the friends he'd grown up with.

"He was a very bright young man," Harvie said.

At the scene yesterday, it appeared the truck veered off the road and into the north ditch after hitting the five teens. Three red roses had been placed in the snow near paramedics' discarded rubber gloves.

Ryll said the accident occurred shortly after Lindell and the others left the house party to see an altercation of some kind outside on the highway at about 1:45 a.m.

"Everyone went out to go see," Ryll said. "There was a number of people on the highway and lots of cars. People were just milling about and then started going back to the residence."

A number of cars were parked on both sides of the highway, so the five had to walk on the pavement, she said. It appears they walked about 80 metres down the highway from the driveway of the house and then turned to walk back.

Moments later, they were hit by the 2001 Chevy truck, which was travelling at about 65 km/h. The truck's driver was also returning to the house party after taking someone home. One of those injured is the daughter of the owner of the home where the party was being held.

A family member at the scene said he didn't want to comment on the accident.

Lindell's family also declined to comment.

Yesterday, the usually boisterous Whistle Stop Cafe was a sombre place as a few patrons sat and reflected on the tragedy in their community.

"It's been a sad, sad day. It's just so quiet in here," Coggan said. "Usually it's lively, but no one can even eat or drink."

Coggan said a few of her younger staff members were too distraught to come to work.

"They go to school with the bunch that were hurt. They're just too upset right now," she said. "These are good kids."

Harvie said he spent several hours Sunday at the Health Sciences Centre with families of the injured and also speaking with school staff.

"We're all just trying to support one another," he said. "The kids are very close-knit."

He said the weekend started Friday morning on a positive note when students, including some of those involved in the accident, held a pancake breakfast to raise $2,800 for the Children's Hospital.

He said clowns entertained younger children and a playhouse that older students built was auctioned off.

"The students did a lot of good and felt good about themselves," Harvie said. "Thirty-six hours later everything changed."

Jason Waldner has been charged with impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death, four counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm, four counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm and driving over the .08 blood-alcohol legal limit.

Lindell is the second young person to die in an impaired driving-related collision this past weekend.

A 19-year-old Winnipeg Beach woman died in a single-vehicle crash Saturday on Hwy. 9 near Sandy Hook. The driver of the car is being investigated for impaired driving.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 24, 2004 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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