New Brunswick's Coroner Services is still investigating last week's death of a 13-year-old Dorchester girl who community members say fell from a moving school bus, but no decision has been made about calling an inquest.
Hailey Pierce was on her way home from Dorchester Consolidated School on April 12 when the incident occurred. Police and school officials have released few details about what happened.
Longtime Dorchester resident Reg Tower, a volunteer firefighter and first responder who arrived at the scene immediately after, said members of the southeastern New Brunswick community were initially worried about a deficiency with the bus.
Tower, who is also president of the Greater Dorchester Moving Forward Co-operative, whose services include youth programming, said residents "thought that maybe there was something wrong with the bus ... but that just wasn't the case and quickly got resolved."
Tower said "it was an intentional exit" from the back of the bus.
He said the students had a drill weeks before the incident, so they "would have understood how to exit the back door of that bus."
On Monday, the community held a walk in honour of Hailey Tower estimates that nearly 100 people showed up. In a village of only about 1,000, Tower said it speaks volumes about the community support.
Tower said he met Hailey through his work with the co-operative. He said she was "a beautiful girl that had lots of good things going for her [but] she seemed to be the last one to understand that."
He said the group plans to do something to keep Hailey's memory alive in the community.
"We don't know exactly what we are going to do for — and with — Hailey's memory," Tower said. "But we are putting the wheels in motion to reach out to the community, the parents, the students to come up with that."
Hailey's obituary described her as "an amazing girl, full of life and was vibrantly colourful in all aspects of it. She enjoyed being physically active, being around horses and spending time with her grandparents and with her right-hand man and brother, Dexter. Hailey had a smile that was contagious, a laugh that was intoxicating and she loved to make people laugh."
Jessica Marr of Sussex is saddened by Hailey's death but grateful for the decision of her family to donate her organs.
Marr's 12-year-old daughter, Abby, received one of Hailey's kidneys on April 15.
Abby is still recuperating at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.
Marr said Hailey's father, Duane Smith, has been in regular contact with her and hopes to meet Abby when she's back at home and feeling well enough for a visit.
Authorities say little
On the day of the incident, RCMP say they were called to Woodlawn Road in Dorchester at about 2:45 p.m. They said a 13-year-old girl was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries. She died in hospital the following day.
When asked for an update on Tuesday, RCMP repeated their statement from last week that "criminality" is not suspected in the case.
When the Department of Education was asked whether it is concerned about the safety of the bus involved in the incident, a spokesperson didn't directly answer the question.
"We understand the impact events like this can have on a school's community," wrote Flavio Nienow in an email response.
"While we cannot speak to this specific situation, we can assure families that all our school buses are required to undergo robust inspections and quality assurance processes."