Mourners fill arena for teens' wake
Streams of people filed quietly Tuesday into a hockey arena that normally resounds with cheers and laughter to see the open coffins holding the bodies of seven young basketball players killed in a devastating traffic accident.
There was an eerie silence in the rink as hundreds of people, most of whom waited patiently for up to two hours in the cold, filed in to pay their respects and view the remains.
Nestled between clusters of bouquets, the coffins were draped with sports jerseys, in most cases more than one since the teens were all keen athletes and played on more than one team.
Family members of the victims sat nearby.
Personal mementoes lay inside each coffin, including a small "Habs fan" teddy bear tucked next to 17-year-old Nathan Cleland, and a small monkey holding a basketball beside Daniel Hains, also 17.
Family photos were carefully placed in the breast pocket of one of the boys while another was wearing his Phantoms basketball jacket.
It was a scene of overwhelming sadness.
New Brunswick Education Minister Kelly Lamrock was among the mourners.
"I hope, in some small way, we were able to communicate to the folks here that we're all hugging our kids a little tighter tonight and thinking about what these families are going through," Lamrock said after visiting the rink.
Christopher Quinn of nearby Beresford, father of 16-year-old victim Nick Quinn, said the outpouring of grief and emotion is helping the families get through the tragedy.
"It takes a little bit of the weight off, but it doesn't take away the pain," he said outside the arena, struggling to control tears.
"It shows how special these boys were."
Justin Cormier, Javier Acevedo and Codey Branch, all 17, and Nicholas Kelly, 15, also died in the weekend crash.
Quinn said people have told him to remember only the good things about his son, who he described as a natural born leader.
"To be honest, I don't have a lot of bad things to remember," he said.
"He had so much potential."