The uncle of one of three boys who were hit and killed by a vehicle on a Manitoba First Nation will remember them as great kids who were inseparable.
“Oh my God, those kids were together every day,” said Curtis Lobster, describing his nephew, Keithan Lobster, 11, Mateo Moore-Spence, 11, and Terrence Spence, 13.
The three boys were walking and riding their bicycles on a main road near Nelson House on Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation in Manitoba on Saturday night when they were struck by a driver who was allegedly impaired.
“Those were his best bros,” Lobster said. “Really close, inseparable.”
The last time Lobster spoke to his nephew, he said Keithan told him he was going to graduate college one day, just like his uncle.
“I don’t know, man — I think he wanted to be prime minister of Canada,” Lobster said with a laugh on Monday.
“Honestly, you would’ve had to have met this kid. [Always asking] ‘Wow, what’s this, how does this work?’
Lobster said his aunt, Keithan’s grandmother, said Keithan was just like her own father — he was approachable and greeted everybody. Whether he knew you or not, he’d ask questions about everything.
”He was driven. He was a great kid,” Lobster said. “All those kids were great kids.”
9 charges laid
A 27-year-old man has been charged in the boys’ deaths.
The RCMP say Todd Norman Linklater is facing a total of nine charges, including:
- Three counts of impaired driving causing death.
- Three counts of impaired driving causing death with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit.
- Three counts of failing to stay at the scene of an accident.
Linklater is accused of driving the car that hit the boys while they were walking and biking with friends just outside of Nelson House Saturday night.
Lobster said he was shocked to hear Linklater was accused of drinking and driving. He said Linklater is helping to raise six children.
“My immediate thought when I heard it was him — Todd is a great guy. He’s a good kid, man,” he said.
Linklater is in custody and will appear in court in Thompson Monday, said RCMP. None of the charges have been proven in court.
Nelson House Chief Marcel Moody confirmed the three boys were hit on Provincial Road 620 about 10:30 p.m. CT Saturday. The road is the main access route in and out of the community, which is about 660 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
RCMP said the driver of the car was heading south on the road, along with four passengers, when his vehicle struck the three boys. One was riding a bicycle, and the other two were walking.
All three boys died at the scene.
The driver got out of the car and ran away from the crash site, but turned himself in to the Nelson House RCMP detachment later that night.
“Here we have a situation where alcohol is involved and we have three youths’ lives taken away, so I imagine there is shock, there’s probably some anger, but we want to assure everyone up there that we have resources in place,” RCMP Sgt. Paul Manaigre said Sunday.
Vigil to be held
Lobster said he learned of the crash from his brother, who was working at a gas station nearby. When his brother saw the boys, he collapsed, Lobster said.
His brother phoned him to tell him about the crash, he said. Lobster dropped the phone when he learned what happened.
Lobster said two of his other nephews were with the three boys at the time. They haven’t been able to sleep since the crash, he said, and he was up with them past midnight on Sunday.
“It’ll take a very long time to make sense of it. The one thing about Nelson House and families is, they come together. They support one another in the grieving process,” he said.
A vigil will be held in the community at 7 p.m. Monday, Moody said in a statement posted on Facebook. Community members will gather at the site of the crash, then a community gathering will also take place.
“To come together like that, to unite like that, I think it’s very crucial. To be at the site, the vigil at the site, it’s comforting to be at the spot,” Lobster said.
Diane Linklater, an elder and spiritual leader who works as a therapist in the community, said her community is in pain.
“Whenever there’s a tragic accident, or any kind of trauma that happens in the community, everybody’s affected. Everybody. Because we’re a big family,” she said.
She was out of the community when the crash happened, but her daughter, who’s a community leader, phoned her soon after and asked her to pray.
“Me and my husband took the time just to sit down and pray, and I cried. Thinking of the young boys, just starting life, and they’re gone — it’s painful,” she said.
She said group support in times of tragedy is part of her community’s traditions.
“When losses happen, sometimes you’re lost for words. As a custom and a tradition of our people, we come together,” she said.
“We all come together, and that’s the best thing you can do in a time of trauma. There’s not really any words that would be fitting to say. Just to let them know you’re there for them.”
Grand Chief Sheila North of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, a political advocacy organization, said MKO will help with crisis supports for the community.
In the meantime, community members are in a state of shock and are just trying to deal with the tragedy in their own way, Moody said.
“Everybody’s grieving, trying to figure out what’s happened in the community.”