Barrie Police and the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) are continuing their investigations into the deaths of six young adults in a single-vehicle incident at a Barrie construction site one week ago with few updates on security or work stoppages at the city-contracted worksite.
The six, identified by police as Curtis King, 22, River Wells 23, Jason O’Connor, 22, Luke West, 22, Jersey Mitchell and Haley Marin, were reported missing Saturday (Aug. 28). The bodies were discovered in the vicinity of the site of a sewer and watermain project at McKay Road and Veteran’s Drive in Barrie at 2 a.m. the next morning, Aug. 29.
City manager Michael Prowse stated, “The area was a construction site being managed by City contractors to deliver the design, construction and financing of the water, sewer and roadwork along McKay Road and Veteran’s Drive to service new development in this area. The road has been fully closed and signed accordingly for many months.”
The MLITSD identified the constructor of the project as Con Drain Company (1983) LTD. The City of Barrie’s project website states that the project team for the McKay Road and Veteran’s Drive job consists of the owner (City of Barrie), a designer (Schaeffers Consulting Engineers) and a builder (Salem Landowners Group, with the DG Group). The project delivery method is design-bid-build.
A spokesperson for DEG Services, also identified with the project, refused to offer any details of the incident or follow-up work stoppages.
The City website indicates that work has started on the new sanitary sewer along McKay Road and the first of five tunnelling shafts has been built. McKay Road sewer work was scheduled to continue along with watermain installation on Veteran’s Drive during the summer months.
The project is the first phase of new infrastructure expansion to support development north and south of McKay Road in the Salem Secondary Plan Area. Water and wastewater service will be extended south from Salem Road along Veteran’s Drive, then west along McKay Road.
The project site is located in Barrie’s Ward 7. Neither Ward 7 councillor Gary Harvey nor City of Barrie communications staff would describe details of the scene or discuss what site security improvements were undertaken in the aftermath of the incident.
“Currently there is an ongoing police investigation, and the City of Barrie is cooperating fully with that investigation,” said Harvey, noting the City could not provide additional details at this time.
Concrete barricades have been erected on McKay Road on either side of a shaft that has been dug into the centre of the road. It is not clear when the barricades were installed.
Police officers have been stationed on McKay at two separate access points to the assumed site of the crash and additional private security was also present over the Labour Day weekend.
Patrick McManus, executive director of the Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association, described the incident as an “awful tragedy” but added he could not comment given there are the two investigations going on.
Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman called the incident a “shocking and horrible tragedy” in a social media post.
“As a parent myself this is the worst nightmare,” he wrote. “The six families in our city who are devastated this morning need all our compassion and support.”
He also referred followers to the support group Ripple of Kindness Barrie, which has set up a GoFundMe page.
Barrie Police last issued an update Aug. 29. Communications coordinator Jennett Mays said a small portion of McKay Road remained closed by police as their investigation continued.
“This is an ongoing traffic investigation that will take time to complete…At this point there are no further updates, and no additional information to be released,” stated the release.
The statement added, “Our thoughts remain with the family and loved ones of those involved, and all those in our community and beyond who have been affected by this tragic event.”
A candlelight vigil that drew hundreds from the community was held Saturday, Sept. 3 for the victims.