It was a mixture of tears and laughter, drumming and songs, as family and friends gathered at the Longhouse in Williams Lake Easter Monday to support the family of Yunesit’in youth Jerome Myers, 20, who died Thursday, March 29 in a collision on Highway 20 near Hanceville.
Jerome’s friend Makayla Hance was a passenger in the Pontiac Cruise he was driving headed eastbound on Lee’s hill when it collided with a Peterbilt tractor-trailer carrying two fuel tanks at around 11 a.m.
“The Pontiac went into the lane of the oncoming fuel truck,” said Cpl. Madonna Saunderson, media relations North District RCMP Tuesday.
Makayla was extricated from the vehicle by Central Cariboo Search and Rescue and transported from the scene by a BC Emergency Health Services helicopter to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops Thursday.
Darnell Myers, a family friend of Jerome’s, visited Makayla in the hospital on Monday to see how she was doing.
“She looked pretty good,” Darnell said. “She broke her hip and right arm and had surgery. Her parents, Gerald and Tracy Hance are in Kamloops with her right now.”
Darnell said it will take Makalya a long time to recuperate.
“It was touch and go there for a bit, they didn’t know if she would make it,” Darnell said. “She has lots of scrapes and bruises on her, and they were hoping to get her sitting up today.”
Yunesit’in Chief Russell Myers Ross said Tuesday it is a very difficult time for Jerome’s family.
“It is such a sudden tragedy,” he said. “At Yunesit’in we hope to continue supporting the family and will participate in celebrating the late Jerome’s life. With sadness we have lost someone who has always been around for his family.”
Family and community members began fundraising on Easter Sunday and finished up Monday evening.
All the money raised will go toward funeral expenses and also to assist with Makayla’s recovery and the travel expenses for her family.
“We’ve got a loonie auction, lahal games, a 50/50 draw,” said Jerome’s aunt Pam Alphonse Monday evening.
Behind her at the longhouse were four beautiful handmade quilts, on display and up for fundraising, that were created by Yunesit’in elder Agnes Ross.
A group of men were also sitting at a table at the back of the hall playing a game of cards, with all bets going toward the cause.
As participants were finishing up the final game of lahal, Alphonse pointed out an empty chair in the middle of one row.
“It’s there for Jerome,” she explained, adding that sitting near his chair were his step mom, his dad, his uncles, brother, sister, nieces and nephews.
A group of drummers from the Edgar family had travelled from the Nuxalk Nation to participate as they are friends of the family, said Jerome’s aunt Janine Alphonse.
At one point Janine encouraged all of the family members to form a circle in the centre and everyone else to form a circle around the outside of them.
As the Edgar family drummed and sang a Nuxalk song, people took turns walking around the circle offering hugs to the family members.
Jerome was the oldest of six children, and was known for his great sense of humour, having a big heart, being protective of his family and having a passion for baseball.
During his life his family and friends affectionately called him “Chum Lee.”
He grew up close with his cousins and leaves behind his parents, Sarah Setah and Lawrence Myers.
On the day of the accident he had travelled from Williams Lake to Yunesit’in and was headed back into Williams Lake when the accident occured, Alphonse said.
A candle light vigil was held Tuesday morning at the site of the crash with an invitation for people to write down their thoughts about Jerome on a piece of paper that would be burned in a bonfire.
Details of his funeral were not available by press time, although there are plans to release his ashes on his birthday, Aug. 30.