Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Crash victims were good friends, free spirits

Semi-trailer driver won't be charged, Mounties say

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Friends and family fondly remember two young crash victims as free spirits.

Kelly Murray, 21, of Erickson, and Kya Angelhart, 20, of Winnipeg, were travelling from Brandon to Winnipeg Wednesday when they crashed into the side of a semi-trailer near Portage la Prairie.

Both were killed.

Murray was the driver of the vehicle, RCMP reported.

"Kelly was loyal to a fault," said her mother Elinor Murray from her home in Erickson Thursday.

"She was so spontaneous. She was a force of nature -- that's what we called her."

Murray said her daughter was a strong woman, who at times could be "impetuous."

"She was very much her own person. Her own mind --Ça free spirit," she said.

"She wasn't ever afraid to speak her mind and she was honest."

Murray, who attended Neelin Off Campus in Brandon, was in the process of moving to Winnipeg.

She was excited about the prospects of new job opportunities and carving out her own path, her mother said.

She planned to live with Angelhart.

The two friends met at Neelin High School in Brandon.

Friend Josh Duff met Angelhart eight years ago in Brandon and was with her hours before the collision.

"I was with her before she left my house to go back to Winnipeg and I told her not to leave, that she should stay with me... and right before she left she said 'I'll see you on Sunday,'" Duff said.

"She was doing really good and they were supposed to leave so early and for some reason they didn't."

The news is especially devastating, Duff said, because Angelhart had turned a corner in her life after a difficult upbringing that involved stints in foster care and group homes.

"When I first met her she was lost, yet so strong through it all," Duff said.

"She was always fun and exciting. And she went through a hard life, but she made the best of it.

She worked hard to be more and give more than people expected from her."

The driver of the semi, a 25-year-old man from the RM of South Norfolk, wasn't injured.

Police said he was driving north on Highway 305, and was turning left to head west on the Trans-Canada Highway, when the collision occurred.

The intersection, which is controlled by signal lights, is where Highway 16 branches off north from the Trans-Canada Highway.

No charges will be laid, RCMP say.

It's the fourth fatal collision in western Manitoba in a week.

On May 17, Graeme Witherspoon of Killarney was driving south on Highway 10 when his vehicle collided with a semi-trailer north of Brandon. He died hours before his 23rd birthday,

On May 16, a vehicle driven by a 68-year-old Brandon man veered off the Trans-Canada Highway and collided with a stationary semi-tuck just west of Brandon.

On May 15, 51-year-old Diana Stevens of East St. Paul died after her SUV crashed head-on with a semi-trailer on Highway 10 near the Canada-U.S. border. She was passing a semi-trailer at the time.

Stevens, who was the executive director of Athletics Manitoba, was driving to her daughter's wedding in North Dakota at the time.

Despite the tragedies, fatal collisions in Manitoba are down from last year, RCMP say.

As of May 21, 2012, there were 24 fatal crashes resulting in 28 deaths, compared with 15 fatal crashes resulting in 16 deaths during the same period this year.

Wednesday's collision near Portage raises the number of crashes to 16 and the death toll to 18.

The numbers are trending down, but RCMP spokeswoman Line Karpish said officers remain diligent in the fight to keep all roadways safe.

"One life is one life too many from our perspective," Karpish said.

There is an annual learning curve for motorists who might be lulled into a false sense of security because driving conditions are good in the spring, Karpish said.

"People aren't as concerned about traction and visibility in the spring, but we still need to pay close attention to the road because things can happen quickly," she said.

"Speeds tend to increase this time of year and it is important to remember that the faster a vehicle is going, the greater the impact and the greater the likelihood of injury or death."

Bob Dolyniuk, with the Manitoba Trucking Association, said spring is always a concern due to a higher traffic volumes as tourists begin to travel to different parts of the country.

Statistics show most collisions involving semi-trailers and vehicles are due to a mistake made by the vehicle operator, he said.


-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2013 A4

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