This is an undated Facebook photo of Todd Norman Linklater.
A Nelson House First Nation man is charged with three counts of impaired driving causing death after three boys were struck by a car and killed just outside the northern Manitoba community Saturday night.
RCMP confirm Todd Norman Linklater, 27, fled the scene of the crash on Provincial Road 620 at about 10:30 p.m. on April 28, only to turn himself in to the detachment later.
He is also charged with failing to stay at the scene of an accident and impaired driving causing death with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit, police said Monday.
The Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation has a population of about 4,200.
“There was no driver or occupants at the time, as they had fled the scene. Within a short period of time, the four occupants returned back to the scene and provided information back to police about who the driver was, as he had fled on foot,” RCMP spokesman Sgt. Paul Menaigre told The Canadian Press.
“I guess they went after him, but he took off.”
The trio of Keithan Lobster, 13, Mateo Moore-Spence, 11 and Terrence Spence, 11 were walking and biking “and exploring” when they were hit, said Nelson House Chief Marcel Moody.
“The two boys, Matteo and Terrence, I knew them personally because they were really close friends of my grandchildren.”
Moody said he broke the news to his grandchildren over the phone in Winnipeg.
“I was as gentle as possible telling them they lost ‘their best bros’ – as they called them. They were always together whenever my grandchildren came back to Nelson House.”
Moody said Keithan had just moved back to the Cree community about 700 km north of Winnipeg.
The community is planning to gather at the scene of the accident Monday night for a memorial service, he added.
“Obviously, it’s devastating to hear that alcohol is (allegedly) involved,” he added. “We have a limit how much (alcohol) can be brought in and a Checkstop Program to enforce it.”
He said Linklater and his passengers were returning home from the nearby city of Thompson along the gravel access road that connects Nelson House with Highway 391.
“From my understanding, he’s a good, young, gentleman that made the wrong decision to (allegedly) drink and drive.”
Moody described the access road as “one of the worst roads in Manitoba. We’ve been after the province for a number of years to asphalt that road.
“Especially in the spring and fall,” he added, “it’s mucky and people can’t stay in their lanes. Sometimes that have to go on the other side of the road to avoid potholes.”
He said there were no streetlights along the road, either.
Roslyn Moore was on the scene of the fatality within minutes.
“It was a very traumatic situation as these children are my son’s friends,” she told APTN News.
“One of the boys that was not hurt ran to our house and got me. He was obviously very upset. In those moments, all I could think about was reaching the kids and doing what I could to help including halting traffic.”
Moore said she was “hampered” in her rescue efforts by poor cellphone reception and no lights.
“I believe there needs to be better lighting along that stretch of highway as so many people walk and bike along all the roads in our community and on that highway.”
Moore said the deaths have hit the close community hard.
“What affects one of us affects all of us. We have lost so many people over the last while and it seems we are in a perpetual state of grieving.”
She said a gofundme account has been set up to defer funeral costs and build a safe bike trail in memory of the three boys.