The Atikamekw community of Manawan, 250 km north of Montreal, is grieving after a father and son died in a car accident on the only road leading to the community — a gravel road that's been flagged to the province as dangerous for decades.
The Sureté du Quebec confirmed Thursday that Jonas Dubé, 29, and his son Weyko Jacob, 7, were found dead Wednesday inside their overturned vehicle in the Milieu River near a bridge on Chemin Manawan, an 86 km logging road which connects Manawan to the town of Saint-Michel-des-Saints.
"It's terrible to live these things. These deaths were avoidable," Paul-Émile Ottawa, chief of the Atikamekw Council of Manawan, told CBC in an interview Thursday.
Ottawa estimates nearly 100 people have died in accidents on that road since it opened 50 years ago.
He says the road has seven bridges, all of which are one lane only.
It's also known for its many dangerous curves.
"People have nicknamed the curves after forestry workers who died in car accidents on them," Ottawa said.
Ottawa said the Atikamekw Council has been asking the provincial Transport Ministry for decades to do something about the road.
He said the ministry finally agreed a few years ago, and plans have been drawn up to eventually pave it.
Ottawa said in the meantime the ministry has promised to rebuild the gravel road with a more solid foundation, which he said would greatly improve safety. He said work would would likely start next year.
Provincial police are investigating the crash to try to determine the cause.
Community also dealing with covid outbreak
Ottawa said losing a father and young son is hard enough but the deaths have also disrupted efforts to deal with a major COVID-19 outbreak in the community, with 12 confirmed cases.
He said Jonas's wife is a nurse, who is now off work to grieve.
"To lose a member of our personnel who's trained to do testing and vaccination, that's affecting our health service's efforts to control the outbreak," he said.
The Masko-Siwin Health Centre posted on its Facebook page Thursday that it was cancelling COVID-19 screening for the day because of the deaths.
The council is collecting donations for the family and offering psychological counselling services to people in the community.
Manawan was also home to Joyce Echaquan, a woman who died in hospital in Joliette last fall, just hours after filiming staff at the hospital insulting her with racist comments.