TWO young women from Winnipeg who died early Saturday morning in a crash in St. Andrews were believed to be riding in a stolen car.
Multiple sources confirmed a 2005 Buick Century that rolled and then struck a utility pole along River Road at approximately 5:30 a.m. was stolen. A witness who got to the car just moments after the crash and called 911 said the only two occupants were dead before emergency crews arrived.
Another vehicle, also believed stolen, was spotted near the scene of the collision. Two men inside that SUV stopped briefly at the crash site before putting the vehicle in reverse and then getting stuck in a ditch. The two men then ran from the scene, which is near Larters Golf and Country Club, and, according to a resident in the area, stole another vehicle just around the corner.
The new information came to light Monday, the same day RCMP confirmed the driver was 17 years old and her passenger was 18.
No names have been released.
Kyle Dech, 17, was one of the first people on the scene and, while on the phone with a 911 operator, had the grim task of checking on the victims.
"It's taken a toll on me," he said Monday. "The fact they were speeding or it might have been a stolen vehicle doesn't change things for me. They were still people."
No other details of the crash were released by the RCMP on Monday, and a spokeswoman would not comment on a report the vehicles were stolen. "It's very early in the investigation, and that's as much as we're prepared to release on it right now," said Sgt. Line Karpish.
But sources say the Buick Century was reported stolen, as was the second vehicle. That SUV nearly caused a crash just seconds before.
Dech, who works at Larters, said he had just turned onto River Road from Highway 9 when he was nearly struck by the second vehicle.
"I think it was a Jimmy. They whipped around the corner, did a 360 and almost hit me," he said. "I couldn't figure out why they were driving that quick that early in the morning. I kept going and that's when I saw a vehicle in the ditch. I got out and then another fellow got out and I called 911 to report the accident.
"We could see one person in the vehicle. They (911) asked me to check if she was breathing. I checked for a pulse and she was dead. Then we saw a girl on the passenger side, but she wasn't alive, either."
The emotional experience was compounded by what happened next.
"The other vehicle came up to the scene," Dech said. "Two guys got out and didn't say anything. Then they got back in the vehicle, floored it in reverse and got stuck in the ditch and ran away."
Over the weekend, a bouquet of flowers was placed on top of one crumpled half of the utility pole by an unidentified person.
Dech said he's coping with the trauma of what he witnessed by talking about it with friends and family.
"I talked to counsellors at school, I've been talking to teachers, talking to friends," he said.
"I think the more I talk about it, the better it gets for me, because I can share it with someone and say, 'This is what I had to deal with Saturday morning.' "
-- with files from Free Press staff