On Sunday May 31 two members of the Whistler Cycling Club were killed by a driver that crossed the centre line on a highway north of Pemberton. The passenger in the vehicle was also pronounced dead.
The day started off innocently when Kelly Blunden & Ross Chafe picked up a third rider and set forth riding from Whistler to Joffre Lakes up on the Duffey Lake Road. A long ride, but not out of the ordinary for this group of three.
It felt like Kelly had lived in Whistler for at least 50 years. The only way that we knew he hadn't been born here, was when he would speak with unending devotion about his beloved Edmonton Oilers and what great draft picks they were going to get this year. Over the years Kelly had done some impressive work, CSIA level IV ski instructor, entrepreneur and more recently head of IT for the Resort Municipality of Whistler. He was the source of friendly banter in the locker room, always with a big grin on his face. Kelly was a father of two grown children and a husband to wife Donnie.
Nothing out of the ordinary happened on the ride out. Downhill from Whistler to Pemberton, Pemberton to Mount Currie, east on the Duffey Lake road until the switchbacks start at Lillooet Lake Rd. For the next 13 kilometres up to Joffre Lakes it is slow going as you gain 1000m of elevation with a average grade of 8%.
Ross Chafe had moved with his family to Whistler several years ago after living in Quebec & Ontario and deciding that he had found where he wanted to spend the rest of his life. Another man with a big smile and a funny story to tell, but more so, Ross was one of those guys that was always interested in what you had to say. So much in fact that we didn't even know what he did for a couple years. Once in a while he would miss a couple of games and come back with a story about riding in Morocco or having to go to China. In all honesty, I thought he was a stay at home dad, until he told me that he was the business development manager for the largest flag manufacturer in Canada.
Two years ago, after having a quick conversation about track riding, Ross signed Kelly & I up for a demo day down at the Burnaby Velodrome. We packed into a couple cars and hit the highway. After a a couple kilometers he starts to open up and says that he started biking in Montreal after going to the Olympics and watching some of the racing, and only after more kilometers does he mention that he was on the national team for ten years competing in track & road cycling and competed in the Worlds three times as well as the Pan Am / Commonwealth Games. Throwing a leg over the saddle was what Ross loved to do.
After the group summited they took a small break and turned around to head back to Pemberton, then Whistler. Ross & Kelly pushed hard and pulled away from the third rider, putting close to 100m between them. The third rider put his head down to focus on pedalling and that is when he heard the collision.
It has been reported that the driver of the car was driving while on a suspended licence after being previously sentenced to 144 days in jail for three impaired diving convictions. Paul Pierre Jr. who was the passenger in the car was also killed in the crash.
What I don't understand is how the driver, a multiple offender, was not in jail? How could someone else knowingly let him drive a car period, let alone get into one with him when he was reportedly under the influence.
Two completely senseless deaths that could have been avoided.
Two families left broken.
Two wives left as widows.
Five children left without fathers.
Time will ease the pain, but nothing will fade the memories of two great guys that gave much more than they ever took.