An 11-year-old girl is dead following a tragic accident in Rankin Inlet on Oct. 15 in Rankin Inlet.
The accident was one of three deaths during an extremely trying week for the community, which also saw a suspicious fire set at the town dump this past Thursday, Oct. 17.
In addition to the fatal accident, a suicide took place in the community and a beloved citizen succumbed to her longtime battle with cancer.
A side-by-side utility vehicle was being driven by a 13-year-old girl in the fatal accident which took place near Leo Ussak Elementary School during the evening hours of Oct. 15.
Two other passengers in the vehicle – aged two and 13 – were treated for minor injuries at the Kivalliq Regional Health Centre and then released, stated a press release from the RCMP.
The release stated a preliminary police investigation indicates the driver lost control of the vehicle and it rolled onto its side.
The matter remains under investigation.
Fire Chief Mark Wyatt said the 11-year-old girl died from the result of a major head injury during the accident.
He said she was not wearing a helmet at the time.
“Unfortunately, this was an accident waiting to happen in this town,” said Wyatt.
“Far too many parents in Rankin allow their children to drive vehicles like this. Children should be driving bicycles. They should not be driving ATVs and side-by-sides around the community.
“Youth need to be taught how to drive these vehicles properly.”
Wyatt said the 11-year-old’s death was a senseless tragedy.
He said he and his bylaw officers continue to be frustrated with the community’s attitude concerning helmet safety in Rankin.
“It frustrates me when we (bylaw) push for helmet laws and get resistance from the community because, sooner or later, something like this is bound to happen.
“Now it has happened and we lost a child. It’s sad for the entire community.
“Parents need to be held accountable and learn to be more responsible or it’s going to continue to happen.”
Wyatt said the first person on-scene at the fatal accident was a passerby.
He said the driver and the two other passengers were not at the scene of the accident when the first responders arrived.
“The passerby was walking in the area of the accident when it happened and attempted to do CPR on the victim.
“The airline flight nurses are housed fairly close to the scene of the accident and they also ended-up coming on-scene to help but she was too badly injured in the crash.”
Wyatt said a huge issue in the bylaw battle to enforce helmet safety revolves around the fact kids often run away from the bylaw officers trying to stop them.
He said the kids think it’s all just a big game to run away from bylaw officers and ignore their attempts to speak with them.
“We’re (bylaw) not going to engage in a hot pursuit in this town. That makes the situation far more dangerous.
“When a bylaw officer turns-on his lights and tries to pull over a driver who’s obviously too young to be driving the vehicle and they run away; that causes accidents to happen.
“The same girl who was driving the side-by-side in the fatal accident – bylaw tried to pull her over the week before and she sped away.
“Sadly, this was an example of what can happen following a situation like that.”
Wyatt said it can be devastating for those responding to a fatal accident.
He said it affects everyone involved.
“Responding to a fatal accident like the one we had this past week affects all the responders, the nursing staff, people in the community… everyone is affected.
“Walking into an emergency room and seeing eight hospital staff members and three first responders working feverishly trying to save an 11-year-old girl who shouldn’t have been there in the first place has a tremendous impact on everyone.
“We conduct a debriefing session after every incident like this and we spent about 45 minutes together as a group – everyone who was involved in the incident – talking through it, and I follow-up with everybody every time it happens.
“There’s also mental health at the hospital but they’re not always readily available, so we often do the best we can on our own.”