The 16-year-old Windsor motorcyclist who was fatally injured on the E.C. Row Expressway last week was an experienced rider — despite his youth, say his family.
According to the loved ones of Dakota Rivard, he was one of the best motorcyclists in a family full of riders.
"He was a natural. Him and the bike were one," said Jaime Poisson, Rivard's mother. "He always wanted to ride."
Rivard died on Oct. 27. The incident remains under investigation, but Windsor police say two motorcycles collided in the westbound lanes of the expressway near the exit for Central Avenue.
Jaime Poisson, mother of Dakota Rivard of Windsor, with one of her late son's motorcycles, a Honda CBR. (Dalson Chen/CBC)
Poisson said the other motorcyclist was Rivard's friend — who was not seriously injured.
Since the crash, Poisson has seen a steady stream of people whose lives were touched by her son.
"That's really been what's getting us through these days. It doesn't feel real... He was just too young."
Born and raised in Windsor, Rivard was a Grade 11 student at Riverside Secondary School.
He was the third-youngest in a large family with seven children.
From left: Dakota Rivard's father, Ryan Rivard; cousin Kylie Warlow; sister Alexis Rivard; sister Aryana Rivard; mother Jaime Poisson; and younger brother Dante Rivard. (Dalson Chen/CBC)
"He was more than my brother. He was my best friend and my partner in crime. Well, not literal crime," said Aryana Rivard — one of Dakota's older sisters.
"He wanted to be a mechanic. I was hoping that when we were older, if I had any car trouble, I would go to him... He was an awesome kid. He was a little argumentative, but he still managed to weasel his way into everyone's heart."
Other family members describe Rivard as determined, stubborn, protective, loving, teasing, endearing — and passionate about motorcycles. He obtained his M2 motorcycle operating licence earlier this year.
Jaime Poisson holds up a phone pic of her late son, Dakota Rivard. Rivard died in a motorcycle crash on Windsor's E.C. Row Expressway on Oct. 27, at the age of 16. (Dalson Chen/CBC)
"He was always working on something. He had a project on the go at all times," Poisson said. "He loved the noise, the feeling... He liked (his engines) loud."
Rivard owned two motorcycles: A Honda CBR given to him by his grandmother, and a Kawasaki Ninja given to him by his father.
From left: Dante Rivard, Aryana Rivard, and Alexis Rivard - three of Dakota Rivard's siblings. (Dalson Chen/CBC)
Rivard was riding the Kawasaki at the time of the crash that took his life.
Ryan Rivard said his son was a better motorcyclist than himself. "We got a little minibike and he's been driving on his own since he was just a little over 10. He was very well experienced."
"What happened is just beyond me. I'm still having a hard time believing it."
Jaime Poisson said her son was "the light of the family. Of any room he was in, really."
A family photo of Dakota Rivard of Windsor on a bicycle. (Dalson Chen)
Dakota Rivard's death was the fifth loss of a young male on Windsor-Essex roadways in one month.
On Oct. 4, a 19-year-old male passenger died in a two-vehicle crash on Tecumseh Road East.
On Oct. 15, two young males — one 17 and the other 19 — died in a crash on Riverside Drive East near the downtown area.
And on Oct. 24, a 20-year-old SUV driver died in a collision with a transport truck on County Road 42 in Lakeshore.
Essex County OPP spokesman Const. Steven Duguay said that traffic fatalities are always concerning — but rashes of deaths like the past month are why police continue to press the public on safe driving practices.
"It's tragic, but that's why we want to try to keep messaging out to everyone... Let's focus on driving. Slow down, and put your full concentration on the road," Duguay said.
"Right from the day they obtain their licence and driving training. I know driver training focuses on the safety aspects... but it's also friends, colleagues, and parents need to really instill those safety measures upon young drivers."
A vehicle window decal made in tribute to Dakota Rivard of Windsor. (Dalson Chen/CBC)
Arrangements have been made with Families First Funeral Home. Visitation will take place Nov. 4 and 5 at the East Windsor location (1065 Lauzon Rd.). A funeral ceremony will be held Nov. 6.
The family asks that donations on Dakota Rivard's behalf go toward the Canadian Aviation Museum in Windsor.