A beloved local lacrosse player-turned-coach and five other young adults reported missing on Saturday are believed to have died in a single-vehicle collision in Barrie, Ont.
At around 2 a.m. on Sunday, Barrie police discovered the scene of a crash in the area of McKay Road and County Road 27.
“It is believed that the occupants of this vehicle were the six individuals who reported missing earlier on Saturday night,” said Jennett Mays, Barrie Police Service‘s (BPS) communications coordinator.
The victims, four men and two women, were all in their early 20s, Mays added.
“The Barrie Police Service offers sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of those involved,” BPS said in a tweet.
Few details have been released regarding the circumstances surrounding the crash. The City of Barrie confirmed late Sunday afternoon that the area where the crash was located is the site of a construction project and that the intersection has been closed since spring.
“The area was a construction site being managed by city contractors to deliver the design, construction and financing of the water, sewer and road work along McKay Road and Veterans Road to service new developments in this area,” city manager Michael Prowse said in a statement.
Police have not released the name of the victims, but one of them have been identified as local lacrosse player and coach Luke West.
Jim Lowe, the former coach of West, remembered the 22-year-old, who he had known since he was eight, as an incredible man and “a hell of a lacrosse player.”
But what was most admirable about West, according to Lowe, was how he gave back to the game he loved.
“He was volunteering at lacrosse clinics to bring new players into the game. When he finished his playing career, he immediately went into coaching,” Lowe told CTV News Toronto on Sunday.
West was the assistant coach of the Barrie Bombers U17-2 team this summer.
“This is a 22-year-old guy who gave up his summer to be in sweaty arenas, teaching 15 and 16-year-olds how to become better lacrosse players,” Lowe said.
“He just did it because he wanted to give back, and he became a role model for those young men,” he added.
That’s why, Lowe said, West’s death will leave a huge hole in the lacrosse community, especially young players who looked up to him.
“I think there’s 17 kids on that team, actually — seventeen young men who have lost a role model who I’m sure will play passionately for him as they move forward.”
For Lowe, one of his favourite moments in his 20-year career as a sports announcer was calling West’s first junior lacrosse goal.
West appeared in six provincial championship final games, winning two of them — one as a player and the other as a coach.
“The game helped him through his life and took him places and gave him memories,” Lowe said.
“Unfortunately, that story ended far too soon.”
Lowe said the last time West was on a lacrosse floor, he received a silver medal as a coach.
“Nothing can take the pain away. But knowing, the last time he was in a lacrosse rink, it was having a medal put around his neck for not his physicality…but because of his leadership and his understanding of the game,” he said.
“And for him to have done both to have one as a player and then get that high as a coach in just 22 years, that’s something. That’s a legacy.”
The Barrie Minor Lacrosse Association posted a tribute to West on their Facebook page, remembering him as a locker favourite due to his toughness, tenacity and incredible lacrosse IQ.
“Westy – the impact that you had on your teammates, coaches, and the young men you coached is immeasurable. Few have ever worked harder in Bomber Blue, few can claim to have lifted us so high. We love you, we miss you, and we are grateful for the time that we had with you,” the association wrote.
Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman also offered his condolences in a tweet.
“It’s just an awful day. These young people were well known in the community, very active in sports,” Lehman said in an interview with CP24.
“It is just shocking news. I think it’s reverberating around the city right now.”
He is asking the community to show support, compassion and respect to the families affected by the crash.
“Let’s all keep those families at the top of our minds right now because they are dealing with the most awful circumstance that anyone can imagine,” Lehman said.
Barrie Fire Chief Cory Mainprize said it is “such sad day for our community.”
Later on Sunday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford took to social media to extend his condolences to the victims’ loved ones.
“On behalf of all Ontarians, I want to extend my deepest condolences to the loved ones of these six young individuals,” the post said.
“We are holding you all in our hearts during this time of unspeakable pain.”
County Road 27 is completely closed on both sides of McKay.
Barrie police’s Traffic Unit is on scene investigating along with officers from its Investigative Services division.
Anyone with information about this collision should contact Barrie Police Service.
– with files from Andrew Brennan
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