Serving Dorchester, Belmont, Thorndale, Thamesford, Putnam, Crampton, Avon, Harrietsville-Mossley and surrounding area
Signpost photo by Wendy Spence
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY: Gord Gurmin (left) and Hugh Nisbet don red sweaters for the festive luncheon last Wednesday at the FlightExec Centre auditorium. Many local businesses including restaurants and flower shops are getting ready for busy days this week in celebration of the special day.

Resident reflects on incident

that killed best friend

by Wendy Spence

     Riley Shannon perished on the very property that he thought of as his “safe haven,” according to his best friend, Amanda Murray, whose family lives there. Last March during spring break, she said Shannon “passed away doing what he loved – protecting me, my friends and family.” Murray asked him to help by stopping three teens from having an accident with a skid steer. Last Wednesday, Trent Weller, 20, and Adam Sinden and Ryan Esler, both 19, of Thames Centre all pleaded guilty to failing to remain at an accident to offer assistance. The date for the reading of the victim impact statements and sentencing hearing was not available at press time. “No matter what the courts decide, it’s not going to bring Riley back,” said Murray.
     “It’s been hard,” added the 19-year-old. “Court was interesting.” She saw Weller, Sinden and Esler, who she has known since her family moved to Dorchester when she was in Grade 5, for the first time since the horrific incident. “I didn’t just lose one person – I lost all four – because I hung out with them every weekend. I’m glad I have so many people surrounding me. No individual can go through that by themselves.”
     The fact that 25 others were at the courthouse last Wednesday for the proceedings reminded her what a well-known young man Shannon was. “The truth finally came out,” said Murray. “For me from the very beginning it’s been black and white; no grey. How do you walk away and let somebody die?” She said people came up with excuses. “It’s very hard for the community. It breaks my heart because we’re such a small, close-knit community.”
     Details of what happened on March 11, 2017 were read to Ontario Court Justice Wendy Bentley by Assistant Crown attorney George Christakos. There had been a gathering of about 12 people, including Shannon. Esler, Sinden and Weller arrived at 11 p.m. and just before midnight wanted to get into what was referred to as the “toy shed”. Weller got into the John Deere skid steer and Murray told him to get out, which he did. Sinden had experience with this type of equipment and offered to move it back to its proper location. He entered the cab and backed out of the garage, with Weller riding on the side. Esler jumped on the front and stood on the bucket while leaning against the cab. Sinden turned the skid steer towards the road and began to drive slowly down the laneway.
     When Sinden didn’t put the machinery back in the proper location, Murray called Shannon from her cellphone. He was in the house at the time and asked his friend Reece Maddocks for help. They tried to stop the teens from driving the skid steer. Maddocks tried to knock on the cab to get them to stop, but he became scared because of the size of the vehicle and held back. Shannon then attempted to knock on the window. Weller jumped off and started walking behind the skid steer. Shannon got close to the equipment, banged on the metal screen on the cab window to get Sinden to stop operating it and his right foot got caught between the front blade and wheel track. The skid steer continued to travel about 400 metres up the laneway, then Shannon’s other ankle got tangled and pulled under the track from his ankle to his shoulders. The skid steer had become fully balanced on Shannon’s mid section and came to a stop. Maddocks yelled at Sinden to move forward off of Shannon’s body, which he did. Esler and Sinden jumped out of the skid steer. They and Weller asked Shannon what hurt. He said he couldn’t feel his body and Esler ran to the house to tell Muarry what had happened. Shannon pleaded with Maddocks to call 911 because he thought he was dying. Emergency responders arrived about 12 minutes later.
     Esler, Sinden and Weller went to the house to tell Murray what happened and that “Riley had been run over.” They grabbed their belongings and beer and left the property, running through a wooded area, without helping out or calling 911, but they said they were aware that 911 had been contacted.
     Esler called a friend and asked him to pick him and his friends up on a back side road near the pond. He drove them to Weller’s girlfriend’s house in Putnam. Two of them had half a beer and Sinden’s lawyer said he didn’t have any beer in his belongings. The individual who drove them thought that there was possibly a fight and didn’t find out what happened until he saw an Instagram post. He tried to ask Esler what had happened, but Esler was crying so profusely, that he couldn’t understand.
     Murray came out of the house to be with Shannon who was unconscious and breathing shallowly. She asked Maddocks to flag down the responders. Shannon was found about three feet behind the skid steer in a fetal position. He was on his left side, foaming at the mouth and unresponsive to emergency responders. Shannon was transported to Victoria Hospital and pronounced dead at 12:49 a.m.
     Esler, Weller and Sinden were arrested and charged at their houses at about 7 the following morning. Esler’s father had driven them home.
     Following police interviews with several of the witnesses to the incident, most said they saw Esler, Weller and Sinden drinking one beer each. One person heard Esler saying to the others, “Let’s go, let’s go, get your stuff guys.”
     When he was able to be reached by phone, a witness asked Weller why the trio left. He then hung up, Christakos read that Sinden called the person back and said he was drinking and scared.
     Sinden said that, although they did check on Shannon, they were in shock and scared when they took off and it wasn’t right. He and Esler wrote letters of apology to Shannon’s parents to say if they were able to go back in time, they would have stayed to help.
     Pre-sentence reports have been ordered for all three to help determine the appropriate sentence.
     A pre-sentence report is prepared by a probation officer who will interview the offender, the offender’s family, friends and employer (if they are working). They usually take between two and six weeks to prepare.
     All three accused were contacted by The Signpost but chose not to provide comments.
     Murray said she suffered from survivor’s guilt and for the first few months following Shannon’s death she believed she could have done something differently. “I felt like this was all my fault.
     “I will never have a connection with someone as I did with Riley.” Murray is sad that he won’t be with her for some of the most important moments of her life, but she is grateful she was with him for three days before he passed away doing things they both loved – singing, dancing and having lunch.
     Friends had a memorial car cruise in honour of Shannon down his favourite country roads a couple of months after he passed away. They plan on making it an annual event.
     Murray is taking psychology and business at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo and said she is becoming the best person she can become because that’s what Shannon would want for her. He was studying to become a paramedic at Fanshawe College, but Murray said he’s her angel now. “I know he’s up there smiling down on us.”
     She recalled Shannon’s final words to her when she called to ask him to help stop what ended up being a skid steer joyride that took his life: “Yup sis, I’ve got it. Love you. Bye.”

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