Northern Ontario is once again cloaked in a shroud of sorrow, as another young life is snuffed out in an unfortunate mishap. This time, the victim was a 14-year-old lad, Christopher “Chris” Roque, from Wahnapitae First Nation, who succumbed to injuries sustained in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) rollover. The grim accident took place on September 28, pushing the count to a daunting 10 fatalities involving off-road vehicles in the region since July.
Christopher, or Chris, as he was fondly addressed, spent his last afternoon traversing the trails on an ATV near the Capreol community, Greater Sudbury. Concern arose when the young lad did not return home at the usual hour, prompting his father to rally their friends to ascertain his whereabouts. Chantal Larocque of the Anishinabek Police Service recounts the incident, adding that a friend discovered Christopher lying lifeless near a logging road. The accident was solitary, with no other vehicles involved, and resulted in his premature departure from life – a jarring truth his community is still grappling to accept.
Christopher was laden with promise; he was merely a freshman at Bishop Alexander Carter Secondary School in Hanmer, having completed the 8th grade in June. His stature in the eyes of his peers was significant, having earned the role model award in the previous academic year.
Christopher’s tragic death has sent waves of grief through the Wahnapitae First Nation community. His grieving mother shared that a Sacred Fire now burns at the Jingtamok grounds, honouring Christopher’s memory until he is laid to rest. Life has momentarily come to a standstill in the community, with several events being called off to allow the collective heartache to subside. Activities such as the First annual community moose hunt, Truth & Reconciliation Day awareness walk, and a community financial session have been suspended to mourn the gaping loss created by Christopher’s untimely passing.
The scourge of fatal off-road accidents has made Northern Ontario its disheartening playground since July. On July 23, a calamitous ATV crash claimed the lives of a mother and her five-year-old daughter east of Parry Sound, while her nine-year-old son astonishingly survived. Less than ten days later, a blood-curdling head-on collision involving an ATV and a pickup truck took the lives of a father-son duo on their way home from a fishing trip.
Grim figures recount instances of similar accidents taking the lives of a 10-year-old girl, a 34-year-old man, a 39-year-old resident, an 84-year-old citizen, and a 62-year-old individual in intervals through August and September. Each life lost has knotted the community in sorrow and anguish, raising pressing questions about off-road vehicle safety and regulations that need urgent addressing.