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Manitoba reeve, community mourn five killed in Highway 83 crash

The reeve of a western Manitoba community said a fatal car accident that killed five area residents will be difficult to grapple with for some time.

Bill Gade, reeve of the Municipality of Swan Valley West, said the news sent shockwaves throughout the community. Residents gathered at the crash site after hearing to the news to process what happened.

“Almost everybody knows one of them,” he said. Speaking to both Global News and 680 CJOB, the reeve said people are devastated.

“A lot of people have been discussing, starting Saturday night, the fear of everybody who was there and then as you slowly find out who the people were, a lot of people remembering them, remembering their interactions, and just asking, ‘Why?’”

Details from Swan River RCMP point to a single-vehicle rollover on Saturday evening on a portion of Highway 83, about 19 kilometers south of the community of 4,000. A preliminary investigation revealed an SUV was driving northbound when it went into the ditch and rolled into a field.

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Two women and three men, ranging in age from 25 to 42, were not wearing seatbelts and were pronounced dead at the scene, RCMP said Sunday.

According to Gade, people he knows are related to individuals involved in the accident, including a council member who was an uncle of the deceased and a former employee who was a sister of another. Gade called the community a “very tight knit place” where everyone knew each other, either directly or through someone else.

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In speaking about his own reaction to the news, Gade said it’s been a hard thing to process.

“It’s not something I like (as) part of the job. I prefer to be talking about happy things … not talking about the loss of five lives,” he said. “I’ve talked to my own kids. We’ve had those uncomfortable conversations already about seatbelts and driving too fast.”

Manitoba has recorded a high number of fatalities on provincial roads this year, including the deaths of 17 seniors in a fiery crash on the Trans-Canada Highway near Carberry, Man., in June. A total of 89 people have died on provincial roadways so far this year, according to RCMP statistics.

Gade said the stretch of highway where the incident occurred isn’t known for accidents as the road is in good shape, but noted there are places around the community and across the province where roads can be made safer.

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As for personal safety and the use of seatbelts, RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Paul Manaigre said not wearing them has been a reoccurring theme in incidents this year.

“A lot of these deaths were preventable had they been wearing a seatbelt,” Manaigre told 680 CJOB Sunday afternoon.

Speed is believed to be a factor in the Saturday evening accident.

Meanwhile, Gade said the community will be mourning their neighbours in the coming days and weeks.

“Everybody has a story of how they knew those people,” he said. “There’s people that just won’t be there anymore. … It’s going to leave a big hole.”

Mounties continue to investigate the crash.

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