LASHBURN, Sask. – Dalbert Attfield had hope that his 15-year-old son was still alive when the Mounties asked him and his wife to drive down the highway to the next Saskatchewan town so they could meet and talk about a car crash involving the teen.
A grief counsellor and two officers were waiting for them at the legion hall in Marshall and asked to see a picture of their boy, Tarren, on one of their cell phones. They then told the parents their son had died in the crash with several of his friends — six teens in total.
They cried and denied it was possible. Then Attfield went to the morgue.
He unzipped a body bag containing one bloated corpse pulled from the bottom of a road-side slough and recognized the bright boy with blond hair and blue eyes who often resembled singer Justin Bieber.
He kissed his cold face over and over again.
“I told him how much his sister and I would miss him,” Attfield sobbed Sunday outside his home in the town of Lashburn.
“I couldn’t leave him. I just wanted to bring him home with me. That was my little man.”
Attfield and his wife, Cherie, recounted what they knew of the crash, how their son had gone to the gym with friends on Friday afternoon. And later that evening, how his best buddy, Jayden Boettcher, phoned his mother back in Marshall because he was having trouble with his Pontiac Sunfire.
She phoned a gas station and they gave him $20 worth of gas because she promised to return the next day and pay the bill, said Dalbert Attfield.
Cherie Attfield said the boys had been at a friend’s home about 30 kilometres away in Lloydminster, the city straddling the Saskatchewan-Alberta boundary.
Tarren had “free reign,” she said, because if he was out drinking at a party he always called her for a ride.
“He was a good boy, never had to worry about him, was really never in any trouble,” she said. “I didn’t care as long as a knew where he was at.”
RCMP said they got a call about 4:30 a.m. the next day about a semi roll-over south of Lloydminster. First responders found the truck, which was hauling crude oil, on its roof in a road-side slough. They got out the driver, found a teenager in the wreckage and rushed them both to hospital.
At some point, police realized there were more people in the water.
The small Sunfire was completely submerged and out of sight, and it took some time to retrieve the bodies of two other boys and three girls, ranging in age from 13 to 17.
The boy taken to hospital later died of his injuries.
Dalbert Attfield said RCMP have told him alcohol was not found in the car but toxicology tests are being done to determine if the teens had been drinking.
His wife said it appears the car went through a stop sign.
Police had not yet released the identities of the victims and were trying to piece together exactly what happened.