Lisa Owen and her husband, Darrol Thurier, live on Hunter Road in West Wentworth, Nova Scotia, about 50 kilometers north of Portapique, where a 51-year-old man began a rampage on Saturday evening that would stretch across the province before ending in Enfield the next day.
The RCMP confirmed on Monday that at least 19 people have died.
Sunday just after 8 a.m., Owen said he heard what sounded like a gunshot.
Thurier drove his ATV on the road, but ran into other neighbors in a truck that told him to turn around because there was a house on fire and there were “flying bullets” “
He went home, where they locked the door and waited inside for about 10 minutes. Thurier said he then went out to do some work and heard a “very, very strong” explosion.
Thurier saw flames and black smoke spread through the air.
He rode the road again on his ATV and encountered a volunteer firefighter standing at the end of the driveway leading to the homes of Alanna Jenkins and Sean McLeod.
Although they called 911, Owen said that the dispatcher had told them that the firefighters were standing because there was an active shooter in the area and that he was unsure to respond.
“Basically, their hands were tied. So we just saw it go up in flames, “said Owen.
The couple said the cars owned by Jenkins and McLeod were parked in the driveway.
About 30 minutes later, Thurier said their son had come to tell them that he had seen another neighbor, Tom Bagley, lying dead by the house fire.
CBC News has confirmed that Jenkins, McLeod and Bagley are among the victims.
Thurier and his son returned to the scene of the fire because Owen called 911 again.
She said the dispatcher took her information and sent it to the paramedics, who asked Owen to go find out if Bagley needed an ambulance.
“So I had to go see him and tell them, and check for any signs of life,” said Owen.
“He’s your friend, you know. It’s hard, “added Owen, his voice breaking.
The RCMP arrived shortly after and the officers got out of the vehicle with their weapons drawn because the gunman was still on the run. After checking that the area was safe, Owen said the police told them to go home and stay inside.
“He helped everyone”
Bagley, who, according to Thurier, was a former firefighter, was the type of guy who always lent a helping hand in the event of a problem.
“He helped everyone on the road,” said Owen.
She added that other neighbors said they spotted the gunman’s fake RCMP cruiser on the road early Sunday morning.
Thurier said Bagley was the kind of person who would come to see if he could help.
“It’s the only thing that really makes sense,” said Thurier.
Owen said that the people who live along Hunter Road are a “tight” group, and before COVID-19 restrictions, there was usually a meeting with someone every month. She remembered that Jenkins and McLeod were both “the life of the party”, while Bagley was “the kindest soul”.
“Everyone on our way right now is grieving very, very hard,” said Owen.
She said they were trying to figure out why the shooter appeared on their dirt road, but had no idea.
Supt. Nova Scotia RCMP Chris Leather told a news conference Monday afternoon that officers were at 16 crime scenes spread across Portapique and other nearby communities.
He said there had been five structural fires and so far they have not been able to fully investigate these crime scenes, as most are residences and there may be victims in the remains of these houses that burned down.
He also said he expects the death toll to increase as the investigation continues.
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