Mourners in the Acadian fishing community of Cap-Pele packed Eglise de Paroisse Ste. Therese D'Avila, a Roman Catholic church where a funeral service was held for Justin Leger, Sebastien Leger, Justin Brown and Luc Arsenault.
Justin and Sebastien Leger — who were not related — and Brown were 18 years of age when their car crashed into a culvert and rolled several times in nearby Notre-Dame early Saturday. Arsenault was 17.
Rev. Louis-Joseph Boudreau said people in the village of 2,300 were having a difficult time coming to terms with their deaths, particularly those who grew up with them.
"These four boys were so close to them," Boudreau said prior to the funeral service held in French.
"They depended so much on their cheerful attitude, on their sharing of school life and leisure. It is a challenge for them."
The caskets carrying their bodies were draped in flowers. A slide show depicting images from their childhood was beamed onto two large screens at the front of the church. The photos were set to music, including Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," and showed the boys together, often playing hockey.
As the pictures flashed across the screens, some people sobbed while others held each other. There were occasional bursts of laughter as the boys were shown in humorous situations or making funny faces.
"Be close to your friends because you think it can never happen to us," Patrick Boleyn, a Grade 12 student who knew the victims, said before he entered the church.
Boleyn said all four boys were fun to be around, particularly Arsenault.
"He was a fun guy," Boleyn said.
David Landry, another Grade 12 student who knew the young men, said many of his friends were struggling to overcome their grief.
"We're trying to think about the good times we had," he said.
The municipality asked residents to keep their Christmas lights turned off until after the funeral, a request Mayor Debbie Dodier said was respected.
Victor Boudreau, the Liberal member of the legislature for the area, said the community is close-knit, with most related to each other in some way.
Boudreau said he has spoken with the four families and it will take time for them to find peace.
"Getting through the holidays and everything is going to be tough, so certainly I wouldn't say today is the day for closure, but it's a step."
Most of the people attending the funeral quietly stood outside in the pouring rain as the caskets left the church and four hearses drove away.
Police have not released the exact cause of the crash, but say speed was a factor.