Second victim airlifted to Vancouver General Hospital with life-threatening injuries after Sunday tragedy.
Flowers, cards, candles, shells, feathers, stuffed animals, and tributes now grace the sign post closest to the scene of where 20-year-old Rayel MacDonald died early Sunday morning.
At noon on Monday, around 200 people, including students, family, teachers, friends and people from the community gathered at the site for a short memorial service.
MacDonald and another young woman, also 20, were struck by a truck on Carson Drive in Williams Lake at approximately 2:15 a.m. Sunday. Williams Lake RCMP say they received a call that two pedestrians had been struck by an older model smaller pickup truck that fled the scene. The truck, while travelling down the hill, hit the pedestrians close to the bottom of the hill, near the Williams Lake Secondary School field.
The RCMP say there were 25 to 30 witnesses at the time of the incident. When BC ambulance attended the scene, MacDonald was pronounced dead. The other woman, whose name has not been released yet, was airlifted to Vancouver General Hospital with life-threatening injuries.
“I can tell you she has severe chest trauma, pelvic trauma, and actually has a broken femur,” says Corp. Madonna Saunderson, media liaison for RCMP Prince George Regional Provincial Traffic Services.
A family member says she is now in stable condition.
Soon after the incident, Williams Lake RCMP members located the truck believed to have been involved in the incident.
Martin William Michael Gentles, 27, was charged with impaired driving causing death and impaired driving causing bodily harm.
MacDonald graduated from Williams Lake Secondary School in 2010, and had just completed two years in the nursing program at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake.
At the memorial site, one note says: “Heh girl, I guess Heaven needs nurses too … . We will miss you.”
As they held a rugby ball, which was quickly gathering signatures and notes, a group of female rugby players spoke of their love for their lost friend and fellow rugby player
Through their tears, the players talked about their gratitude to a young woman who made them laugh, supported them, made them feel confident and who they were grateful to know.
“She’ll be on the pitch with us in the future,” one player said. Another said MacDonald loved them all “too much.”
A young man said he would give anything to hear her laugh again. Another said although she was tragically taken she will always live in people’s hearts. WLSS counsellor Mike Levitt said words don’t seem to fit when a young person passes.
Reading from a prayer he’d penned, Levitt asked for comfort and peace for everyone.
Pastor Paul Lomavutu, also a former rugby player, told those gathered that he never knew MacDonald, but after talking to the rugby players and asking them to share one thing they loved about her, he decided she must have been a mother hen.
Heartfelt laughter erupted from the crowd when Lomavutu offered those descriptive words.
“The conviction that comes to me is that it is so tragic when a young life is lost. When we see what she can teach us as a mother hen, we can think about a bird that has broad wings. And under her wings are chicks that she protects. In that sense of protection they take refuge and comfort. It’s a place for fun, a place to nurture and a place to grow,” Lomavutu said, adding that MacDonald provided that sense of protection and security for her fellow rugby players.
MacDonald’s mom Andrea described theirs as a musical family and asked everyone to sing You are My Sunshine, one of the family’s favourite songs to sing at home.
“It describes Rayel and describes how she felt about all of you,” Andrea said as she looked around at all the people gathered.
Afterwards Mayor Kerry Cook said she believed it helped for people to be able to gather together.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the MacDonald family. Rayel was a beautiful girl. She’ll be greatly missed,” Cook said.
Saunderson says the investigation continues in conjunction with the BC Coroners Service and the RCMP Cariboo Chilcotin Traffic Services.
She asks anyone with information about the incident to contact the police.
The official service will take place Saturday at Williams Lake Secondary School, with the time yet to be determined.
Gentles is expected to attend his first court appearance May 23.