LANTZ, N.S. — Schoolmates of two teenaged women who died when they were struck by a freight train in rural Nova Scotia said Friday it was heartwrenching to realize how suddenly lives can be cut short.
Hunter Robson and his classmate Ben Centrone, both 16, paused as they walked away from Hants East Rural High School in the afternoon.
They said the deaths have spread grief through the small community of Lantz, about 50 kilometres from Halifax off the highway to Truro.
"I'm walking to clear my head,'' said Centrone, a Grade 10 student who is on the varsity rugby team at the high school.
Robson, in Grade 10, said just hours before he'd seen one of the women at the annual sports banquet, celebrating the achievements of classmates.
"And now she's not here,'' he said.
"People in the school are not doing very well. There are people who can't hold it in," said student Ben Centrone.
RCMP say a 17-year-old high school student from Lantz and an 18-year-old former international exchange student from Germany were pronounced dead at the scene of the collision, which happened around 1:40 a.m. Friday.
They did not release their names pending notification of family members.
Centrone said he knew the 17-year-old student as a member of the female rugby team team and just days before they had chatted on a bus.
"People in the school are not doing very well. There are people who can't hold it in. They can't hold it in,'' he said.
Debbie Buott-Matheson, spokeswoman for the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, said the 18-year-old woman who died in the incident was a former international student, who had returned to the area as a tourist to visit.
"It's going to be a tough couple of days around here."
"There are grief counsellors, school psychologists on site today available to students and staff and students can come and go with those supports as they need them,'' she said during an interview.
At a home near the site of the accident, Mike Aube said he didn't hear the CN train attempting to stop, though the company said employees set off a powerful horn.
"We're obviously just heartbroken,'' he said, then put his hand on his forehead and walked away, saying he couldn't continue to speak.
A spokesperson for the family of one of the deceased said they are declining comment.
Local community leaders say the close-knit community — which includes a series of towns the 600-student high school serves — is struggling with the news of the death.
Police attend the scene of a fatal train accident in Lantz, Nova Scotia on Friday, June 10. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)
It comes just shortly before graduation and in some instances the annual prom.
"It's going to be a tough couple of days around here,'' said John MacDonald, councillor for the municipality of Lantz.
Deaths have also traumatized CN employees
Jim Feeny, a spokesman for CN, said the deaths have also left several train employees traumatized.
He said two crew members on board had seen the girls, blew the horn, applied brakes and put the train into emergency.
"But it was just physically impossible to stop that train in time,'' he said.
The train originated in Moncton and was carrying mixed freight during the regular run.
RCMP say they are in the early stages of an investigation of the deaths.
Cpl. Jennifer Clarke says officers went to an area near Mader Street and Highway 2 in Lantz, N.S., around 1:40 a.m. after someone on the train called 911.
The actual site of the collision wasn't at a crossing, but in a portion of the tracks where fields and farmers fields were on either side, in a section between two residential areas.
Feeny said an early inquiry indicates the actions of the train crew were according to procedure.
But for Centrone the sound of the train's horn, once just a late-night routine, will bring back sad thoughts in years to come.
"It's crazy,'' he said. "I can't believe this is happening in our community.''
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