I’ve Never Felt Truly Mexican, But Cooking With My Mom Helps | Healthyish


This is a story about being Mexican but not Mexican enough. It’s also a story about tamales.

I grew up in a small beach town in California. My mom is third generation Mexican-American and my dad is European; his family has been in America since the 1700s. When I was very little, my life was a mix of cultures: we spoke a kind of Spanglish at home, we had bi-weekly dinners with my mom’s big, extended family and regular beachside barbecues with my dad’s family, and I went to school an hour early to participate in a program that offered lessons in Spanish before “normal” school began.

When I was ten, my mom’s parents disowned her. The details of how and why are complicated, sad, and deeply patriarchal, and my mom was, and is, better off without them. That same year, my Mexican friends came up to me at recess and demanded that I choose between them and my white friends. Because my white friends were making no demands, I chose them.

I should also mention that I present white, and so does my sister, which has led to awkward situations like our mom being mistaken for our nanny and several people over the years doubting, downplaying, or denying my ethnicity when mentioned.

tamales 1

Photo by Alex Lau

Making tamales requires an assembly line of family members.

As I got older, my Mexican identity slowly began to slip away. We spoke less and less Spanish around the house, and my mom stopped cooking Mexican food from scratch—I think both made her too sad. There were no more weekly dinners with her family, of course. We were still close with my dad’s side, and my mom seemed otherwise happy except she would cry whenever there was a mariachi band around. I knew I was Mexican, but I felt on the outside of my own culture, like I had been born with all the ingredients but didn’t know the recipe. I pushed my identity questions aside while trying to get through the turbulence of middle school and high school. But around the time I reached college, I wanted to know more.

I started hounding my mom with questions about growing up, what my grandmother cooked, and where our ancestors came from. I wanted to know everything. My mom grew up with second-generation parents who wanted nothing more than for their daughter to be American. They gave her and her four brothers white-sounding names, encouraged assimilation, and never discussed the details of the family’s immigration. When I started asking questions, my mom asked one of her cousins whom she still spoke to, and discovered that our ancestors came to the U.S. from Oaxaca. I’ll never forget reading the email from her: I ran to my roommate (who happened to be Mexican), and proclaimed loudly that I finally learned my family was from “OH-AXE-ICA”. She laughed for a full three minutes before pulling it together to correct me. I remember the hot shame of ignorance rising in my face as I realized how little I knew.

It wasn’t until after college, in my first New York City apartment, that I started to cook Mexican dishes. First, I would scour the internet in an attempt to find recipes, often piecing together more than one to try for something that seemed “authentic,” whatever that meant. I spent hours in grocery stores up and down the west side of Manhattan foraging for the right chiles, and I spent days stumbling through my first batches of chile verde, enchilada sauce, and chicken mole. Through making these dishes and sharing them with people I loved, I started to create a connection to what I lost, or a piece of it anyway.

I would call my parents every time I made something new, and we’d discuss my process, what worked and what didn’t. They were both cheerleaders and helpful consultants. A year later, after incessant pleading, my mom agreed to make tamales at Christmas with me, something she hadn’t done since she was little in my grandmother’s kitchen. Making tamales is long and arduous, even when you don’t make your own masa. It’s not totally essential to have a veteran tamale maker help you on your first try, but it is incredibly helpful. The process requires a lot of time, space, and a cumbersome tamale pot when done right. And it guarantees time to sit down, catch up, and listen.

My grandmother had died earlier that year, and my mother, still estranged from her family, never said goodbye. And as we sat down with the masa from El Indio, corn husks from our local market and my dad’s slow-roasted pork, we filled champagne flutes and toasted her. My mom cried and told me stories about her mom. Since then, we’ve made tamales together every year.

Are you Mexican if you only have stories and food? I’m not sure. What I do know is that making tamales with my mom opened up a new place for connection, memories, and a line to my lineage. As we pile tamales into the steamer, the smell of masa is everywhere, in the air and on our skin, and it’s starting to feel like home.


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‘I don’t know how I did it’: Mom saves daughter, 4, from sinking car after crash


As her car skidded across black ice and began rolling down an embankment toward an icy pond, Ashley Holland thought she was going to die.

But moments later, the Hantsport, N.S., woman found the strength to not only save herself, but also her four-year-old daughter who was strapped in the backseat as freezing water rushed in. 

« When something like that happens, it’s like your parental instincts just kick in, right? And you do what you need to do to get your child to safety, » Holland, 24, told CBC Radio’s Mainstreet on Monday, a day after the terrifying ordeal.

The mother of two managed to haul her daughter free from the sinking car and swim to a nearby embankment. 

‘A miracle’

« How they were even able to get out of that car was a miracle, » said Capt. Ryan Richard of the Brooklyn volunteer fire department, who arrived at the scene shortly after the pair made it out of the water. 

« To be able to swim to shore and get up over that embankment is totally unheard of, » he told CBC Radio’s Maritime Noon

« I’ll be honest with you, in my last 26 years I’ve been to many similar incidents and unfortunately they’re usually very fatal. »

Holland had been taking her daughter to a birthday party around noon Sunday when she struck black ice just a few minutes away from her home.

Ashley Holland and her daughter Macy were in the car when it crashed. Holland’s youngest child, 14-month-old Nyla, was at home at the time. (Submitted by Ashley Holland)

She lost control of the vehicle and it ended up rolling down an embankment.

« Terrifying, completely terrifying. My daughter just started screaming and I was just thinking in my head, ‘The water, please just don’t go in the water, like please,' » said Holland.

« Then we hit the water. »

As the car rolled, her daughter Macy kept screaming, « Mom, I’m going to die! » The car initially landed on its roof and both passenger side windows smashed to pieces on impact. 

Water started gushing in, filling up the Toyota Corolla. 

Struggling to open door

Holland unbuckled herself, falling onto the roof of the car, and crawled out a window into the water. She tried to open her daughter’s door from the outside.

« I finally did get it open, but I had slush and ice all over my hands and everywhere and my hand slipped and the door slammed shut. So I’m freaking out trying to think, what do I do? » 

For the briefest moment, Holland thought she wouldn’t be able to save Macy. The car was sinking too fast. Her numb hands and legs were working too slowly.

This photo was taken soon after Holland and her daughter escaped the car. (Submitted by Ryan Richard)

But she didn’t give up.

Holland climbed over the car and went back in through a window and worked with her daughter to free her from the car seat. Macy undid the top straps while Holland unbuckled the bottom ones. 

« I just grabbed her and pulled her out and I tried to keep her above the water. I didn’t want her to be hypothermic. So from the waist down she was soaked, but I mean her hair didn’t even get wet and I don’t know how I did it. »

She managed to carry Macy to shore and push her up onto the embankment, but Holland’s body had reached its limit.

« It was really icy and slushy and I was having a really hard time because I thought I was going to pass out. I was freezing so I was having a hard time getting up the hill, and I just said to her, ‘Run, you need to run, go,’ because I saw there was a car coming our way and I didn’t want them to miss us. »

It took some time to haul Holland’s car out of the pond. (Submitted by Ryan Richard)

As Macy flagged down the passing car for help, Holland managed to haul herself to the top of the embankment. The woman in the car wrapped Macy and her mother in a jacket and called 911 while the pair warmed up in the vehicle. 

At about the same time, a fire truck from Brooklyn drove by on its way to assist another fire department. Richard spotted something sticking out of the pond and had the truck turn around. 

They gave Holland and her daughter warm clothes and blankets while they waited for the paramedics. Richard said Holland and her daughter were hypothermic, in shock and disoriented. 

As a precaution, two firefighters put on diving suits and went into the water to make sure no one else was on board, but the car was empty.

Holland said she was lucky she didn’t take her 14-month-old with her or things could have been much worse. 

« You see stories like this on the news all the time, you know through winter and even in the summer, and it’s like a lot of them don’t make it, » she said. « So I’m just thankful that, you know, we did. »   


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Yukon grizzly’s necropsy could hold clues to tragic mauling of mom and baby


Officials in the Yukon have now conducted a necropsy on the grizzly bear that fatally mauled a 37-year-old mother and her 10-month-old infant daughter.

Valé​rie Thé​orêt was killed outside her cabin, some 400 kilometres north of Whitehorse, on Monday.

Her husband, Gjermund Roesholt, was charged by the same bear upon returning from his trap line. He shot the grizzly dead, before making the horrifying discovery that his family was dead.

WATCH: Grizzly bear that killed Yukon mother and baby undergoing necropsy

Environment Yukon spokesperson Roxanne Stasyszyn said conservation officers and the coroner’s office hope the necropsy will provide some answers in the tragedy.

Yukoners say bush life still safer than the city after grizzly kills mom: ‘We prepare, we’re aware’

“It helps us understand the broader health, whether or not the animal was suffering in some way, if it was plagued by a disease, perhaps, that was affecting its ability to move or think or eat in the normal way that a bear would,” she said.

“It allows us to see what the bear had been eating in the last little while, that could help us deduce what had changed in its behaviour, so a necropsy really is an autopsy but for wildlife.”

Fatal human-bear conflicts are rare in the Yukon, according to Stasyszyn — there have been just three in the last 22 years.

WATCH: Whitehorse remembers victims of grizzly bear attack

“In 2014 and in 1996 they were what we would call predatory attacks, and in 2006 it was a defensive attack where an individual was doing what we call line-cutting for exploration work … and literally stumbled on a den that had a sow with cubs.”

‘They were living the dream’: Community reels after Yukon mom and baby killed by grizzly bear

According to Stasyszyn, it is not unusual to see bear activity this late in a year, even with a cold winter.

She said grizzlies can resist hibernating if the foraging remains good, can stay awake if they lack the fat or nutrition to hibernate or can be roused if they lose their den.

That echoes some of what trappers Charles Nadeau and Brian Melanson told Global News Thursday.

WATCH: Victims of Yukon grizzly attack were ‘living the dream’ says friend.

“What I heard from a few communities is that the fruit is very rare,” said Nadeau, who said temperatures in the region had topped 7 C in recent days.

“This is the most dangerous time to be out in the bush without protection,” Melanson said.

“They’re hungry. Any bear that’s up right now is looking for those last few calories he’s going to get before he dens up for the winter.”

However, any answers from the necropsy will have to wait. While the primary work has been completed, Stasyszyn said there’s no clear timeline for results.

“There’s many factors to consider, so even with a necropsy, for example, there could be things that the chief vet or the conservation officers or the coroner need to send south for further examination.

“Our conservation officers are working to do this as quickly as possible, as we appreciate that people need answers and they’re grieving at this time.”

In the meantime, investigators remain at the site of the family’s remote cabin, while family members have gathered together to support Roesholt in Whitehorse, where the family was based when they weren’t trapping.

A crowdfunding campaign has also been launched in the memory of Thé​orêt, a popular teacher, and to help the grieving Roesholt.

“It hits home when it’s your neighbour,” said Melanson.

“Someone you know and someone you looked up to and had respect for as a bushman, not just his wife and daughter.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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‘They were living the dream’: Community reels after Yukon mom and baby killed by grizzly bear


The victim of a tragic grizzly bear attack in the Yukon is being remembered as a talented teacher with a love of the outdoors and an infectious smile.

Valé​rie Thé​orêt and her 10-month-old daughter Adele Roesholt were mauled to death by a bear on Monday outside their remote cabin northeast of Mayo.

The child’s father, Gjermund Roesholt, shot the bear dead when it charged him as he was returning from his trap line.

Yukon mother and 10-month-old daughter killed by grizzly bear at remote cabin

In Whitehorse, where the family was based, the community was reeling on Wednesday.

“Disbelief. Like, it’s not true that she’s gone,” colleague Michel Emery told Global News.

WATCH: Yukon residents in shock over deadly grizzly attack

Friend Rene Lapierre said Thé​orêt was “a magnet to kids,” and always brightened a room with her presence.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen her picture, but her smile is quite beautiful,” he said. “Always smiling, always a very happy person.”

He said Thé​orêt and her partner had only just hit their stride — after trying for years to have a baby.

Yukon tragedy: Grizzly bear attacks extremely rare, say experts

“When they finally got pregnant, she was so happy, it was incredible,” he said.

The couple were experienced backcountry adventurers, he said, and passionate about their remote cabin, adding, “It looked like a dream place.”

“Every time she talked to me about that trap line and that place, it was like heaven for them. She was always happy and smiling talking about that place,” he said.

“They were worried that a baby wouldn’t fit so much on a trap line, but [the child] was rolling with everything and she had a blast playing outside and in the cabin, and it was natural for her.

“They were living the dream.”

Flags were flown at half-staff on Wednesday at Whitehorse Elementary, where Thé​orêt had worked for more than half a decade.

WATCH: Experts say grizzly bear attacks extremely rare

Vice-principal Bruce Dent said there was an outpouring of support for staff and students from the district and other schools, but that those who knew Thé​orêt are still at a loss for words.

READ MORE: Dramatic video shows Bella Coola man firing shotgun at charging grizzly bear

“She taught Grade 3 at one point, she taught Grade 6 at one point. And all of those students, they have great memories of her. She really had a lot of success with them,” he said.

“We had kids come back from the high school yesterday who had been in her class years before, and they were shaken by it.”

Thé​orêt’s partner has returned to Whitehorse, where Lapierre said he is being supported by friends. His and Thé​orêt’s parents are flying to Whitehorse to join him.

“He’s probably made of concrete or steel, I don’t know how he can hold his thing together, it’s just unreal,” he said.

A memorial for the mother and child is planned at the Association Franco-Yukonaise for Thursday.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Mom battles school board saying yoga against her religion


Gina Clarke was furious when her 8-year-old daughter came home from school in tears after doing a wellness day activity in her Grade 3 class.

“(My daughter) was very upset,” recalls the Vaughan mother. “She knew she did something she wasn’t supposed to.”

That something was yoga.

The Clarke family is Roman Catholic and doesn’t do yoga because it’s rooted in Hinduism. Whether or not Catholics should do yoga is debatable. Some believe physical aspects, such as poses, are acceptable, but spiritual elements, such as mantras and meditations, are not. And some, like the Clarkes, prefer to avoid yoga altogether.

So when her daughter came home that day in May 2017, Clarke was upset because she says she had asked the principal for a religious accommodation that excused her from the activity. She says the accommodation was granted, so she was stunned when her daughter said she had done yoga.

That set Clarke on a quest for answers up the ranks of the York Region District School Board, including speaking with the teacher, principal, superintendent, trustee and director of education. She also contacted Ontario’s education minister.

“My paper trail is a mile long,” says Clarke, a cancer scientist who keeps detailed notes and records. “The system has been completely unaccountable to us.”

The matter is expected to come up at the board’s Director of Education Performance Review Committee, which will meet in private on Wednesday. Recommendations made by the committee will be voted on by the board Dec. 11. Citing privacy reasons, board staff said they could not discuss specifics of this case.

Clarke is hoping, in part, for a full apology, greater accountability, and more transparency when it comes to investigations that she would like to see include more parent voice throughout.

According to documents Clarke gave the board, and in interviews with the Star, she says she requested a religious accommodation for her children in March 2017 at Mackenzie Glen Public School. It was triggered when her son came home and said his senior kindergarten class was doing Cosmic Kids Yoga. Clarke met with Principal Lorellie Munson.

“I said, ‘We don’t do this in our religion,’” recalls Clarke, who followed up with an email suggesting yoga be replaced in her son’s class with “alternative exercises which do not have religious origins so that (he) might not feel singled out.”

Her verbal request for an accommodation was granted by the principal, and her son never again participated in yoga. Clarke says she never filled out an official request form, which she later learned is board policy.

About two months later, she says her daughter came home crying, saying her class had participated in an activity and followed along to a video. At the end of the video, which credited The School Yoga Project, the girl realized she had unknowingly done yoga. Clarke later saw a photo on the teacher’s Twitter account that showed her daughter doing what appears to be the tree pose and a meditation practice, and reviewed the video. She spoke with the teacher, and the vice-principal to explain why yoga was incompatible with her faith.

“I really felt like I was viewed as having nine heads, regarding our beliefs,” says Clarke, who took her concerns to the superintendent. She also requested an immediate transfer of her children to another school.

A personnel investigation by Superintendent Paul Valle found there was no record of a request for religious accommodation on file.

“There was no intent to offend you in the matter of religious belief,” explained Valle to Clarke in a June 2017 email she shared with the Star. “In my communication and interviews with the school and staff, it was confirmed that the activities were focused on breathing, stretching and physical exercises and that the content presented had no spiritual or religious context.”

Clarke says she was upset because she felt like she was being told what is an acceptable belief for her and says faith accommodations don’t require a spiritual or religious context. She also felt shut out from the investigation process and couldn’t get answers on what steps were taken and what was asked during those interviews. The whole process was not transparent, she says.

Cecil Roach, Co-ordinating Superintendent of Education, Indigenous Education and Equity for the board, says his recollection is that Clarke’s wishes were accommodated and that the principal thought students had participated in a mindfulness activity and not yoga.

“Many schools in the province are doing mindfulness,” he told the Star. “This particular parent interpreted that as yoga.”

He says it’s hard to see how yoga would qualify as a faith accommodation, but says it was granted nonetheless to Clarke’s children.

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, schools must consider accommodation requests for religious beliefs or practices that are sincerely held, and must accommodate them, unless there are reasons of undue hardship (health, safety, cost), or it significantly interferes with education. In some cases, for example, children are accommodated and exempt from physical education, music and dance classes.

Clarke says yoga can be a “very grey area,” which is why she wanted the accommodation for her kids, so they wouldn’t have to make difficult judgments. Some schools in the United States have even banned yoga because of the religious element.

At the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, it’s not uncommon to receive inquiries about whether yoga is endorsed by the Catholic Church.

“It’s more than a simple yes or no response,” says Neil MacCarthy, spokesperson for Archdiocese of Toronto. “Exercise and physical activity, including stretching, is healthy and encouraged. However, the original proponents of yoga, and many who enjoy yoga today, view the activity as a spiritual practice. While no one tends to think of swimming or jogging as spiritual activities, yoga is different in that perspective. The stretching elements involved in yoga are not at issue but using the practice as part of a holistic approach to one’s spirituality would be of concern for many Catholics because of an incompatibility in what the two spiritualities aim to achieve.”

Clarke’s concerns made it all the way up to the school board’s new director, Louise Sirisko, who took over the role in January. She conducted her own review and in the summer shared her draft findings with Clarke, concluding that appropriate steps had been followed. Clarke provided extensive feedback, believing the board had failed to acknowledge mistakes, make anyone accountable and be transparent. In late October, she received a final response from Sirisko, who said the board responded to complaints in a “thorough and fulsome manner” and stuck with her original finding.

Clarke now hopes the committee will make recommendations so other families don’t go through what she did. She says if someone had apologized at the outset for a mistake or a misunderstanding, this matter would not have escalated.

“This started in the school and could easily have ended and been resolved in the school,” she said. “The whole system has failed us.”

Isabel Teotonio is a Toronto-based reporter covering education. Follow her on Twitter: @Izzy74

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I ‘won’t get parole’ from my misery, mom of 3 dead children says at drunk driver Marco Muzzo’s parole hearing


GRAVENHURST, ONT.—The parents of three children killed by drunk driver Marco Muzzo are urging the parole board not to release him.

A his parole hearing Wednesday, Muzzo, 32, is asking the board for release on day parole. He pleaded guilty in court in 2016 to several counts of impaired driving causing death and bodily harm for the 2015 crash that killed 65-year-old Gary Neville and his three grandchildren, Daniel Neville-Lake, 9, Harrison, 5, and Milagros, 2. The children’s grandmother and great-grandmother were also seriously injured when Muzzo’s SUV slammed into the family’s minivan.

The 2015 crash killed 65-year-old Gary Neville and his three grandchildren, from left to right, Harrison, 5, Milagros, 2, and Daniel, 9.
The 2015 crash killed 65-year-old Gary Neville and his three grandchildren, from left to right, Harrison, 5, Milagros, 2, and Daniel, 9.  (Kay Prince Photography / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“I don’t and won’t get parole from this life sentence of misery and despair,” mother Jennifer Neville-Lake told the board at Beaver Creek prison in an emotional statement.

She said Muzzo’s expression of remorse rings hollow as he is applying for day parole at the first opportunity.

“I miss just hearing their voices in the house. I miss being a dad,” said Edward Lake in a statement read on his behalf.

Muzzo is considered a low risk to reoffend and his case-management team feels “very strongly” his risk to the community can be managed if he is released to a halfway house for day parole, as well as on full parole when eligible next May.

Read more:

‘You killed all my babies,’ grieving mother tells Marco Muzzo

Marco Muzzo offers tearful apology to grieving couple at sentencing hearing

Marco Muzzo wants damages reduced in lawsuit over drunk driving deaths

“I should have known better, I took a chance,” Muzzo, at times crying, told the board about his decision to drive that day.

The board is expected to make a decision on parole later Wednesday.

An inmate is eligible for day parole six months prior to having served one-third of their sentence. For Muzzo, one-third of his 10-year sentence is next May.

On top of his 10-year prison sentence, Muzzo was also banned from driving for 12 years.

“For as long as Mr. Muzzo has been alive, courts have warned about the consequences of impaired driving,” Superior Court Justice Michelle Fuerst said when she sentenced the then-29-year-old Muzzo in March 2016. “Yet the message escaped him. It is important that it does not escape others.”

The case attracted widespread attention due to the young age of many of the victims and the Muzzo family’s enormous wealth — estimated at $1.8 billion according to Canadian Business magazine.

It also marked a turning point in the sentencing range for impaired driving causing death, which had previously been about four to eight years in prison, even though the offence carries a maximum term of life in prison. Legal experts said at the time that Muzzo’s 10-year sentence was likely the highest in Canadian history for an offender with no criminal record and who had pleaded guilty.

Court heard that Muzzo’s blood-alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit when he ran a stop sign in Vaughan in September 2015 and crashed into the family’s minivan.

He had picked up his vehicle at Pearson airport after returning from his bachelor party in Miami on a private plane.

A spokesperson speaking to the media before Wednesday’s hearing said the board’s No. 1 question for the day will be: “What is the likelihood that Marco Muzzo will reoffend?”

Offenders typically go to a halfway house if granted day parole. Full parole means the offender can propose a release plan for the board’s approval, which could include release to his home.

Offenders can also cancel or postpone their parole hearing right up to the last minute.

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant


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‘One lapse of judgment’: Mom of teen killed in train crash pleads for drivers to put away cellphones


Sandra LaRose had been looking forward to going grad dress shopping with her daughter this year.

Instead, just one day after her 17th birthday, Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk died, a few days after a train crashed into her car on a warm August evening.

« I don’t get to go grad dress shopping. I had to buy an urn instead, » LaRose said. « I get to look at that urn every morning and every night. I only get to kiss a picture goodnight. »

LaRose said she always knew she loved her daughter, but didn’t realize the extent of that love until her daughter’s death.

« There’s so much guilt and there’s so much pain. And I’m confused as to how my heart can be so full but broken at the same time, » she said. « It makes no sense to me. »

Now LaRose is sharing her story in hope that it will make others think about paying attention on the road. She believes her daughter was distracted by her phone at the time of the collision.

« Kailynn doesn’t get a do-over. She can’t just say ‘Whoops,’ she won’t do it again, because she’s dead. You can’t sugarcoat it. She won’t be walking across the [grad] stage. »

Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk’s mother say the teen spread her love far and wide, whether it was for her family, friends, or their farm’s many cats. (Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk/Facebook)

A ray of sunshine

Bursic-Panchuk was not an irresponsible teenager, her mother said. She was active in sports, drama and choir. She held down two jobs and was an honour roll student.

She was also a « ray of sunshine » who cast her love far and wide, said LaRose, whether it was sending uplifting messages to other girls suffering from depression or intervening to stand up for a bullied classmate.

« She helped so many people without wanting or needing recognition and nobody even knew about it. Her best friends didn’t even know about it. »

Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk got her first car, which she was driving at the time of the collision, this past June. (Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk/Facebook)

On Aug. 16, Bursic-Panchuk had left work and was heading to a friend’s house, a place she’d never been before.

From what LaRose has learned from police, her daughter had Google Maps open and was getting Snapchat notifications on her phone at the time of the collision.

Bursic-Panchuk’s first car, which she’d got just a couple months earlier, was a standard. LaRose doesn’t believe the phone was in her daughter’s hand, but believes she was distracted by the phone on the seat next to her.

« And I know Kailynn. She came home with her music booming every night from work. She likely didn’t hear the train whistle because her music would have been so loud, » LaRose said, adding she had told her daughter multiple times to turn the volume down while driving.

Just as Bursic-Panchuk’s car crossed the intersection southeast of Weyburn, LaRose said the train barrelled into the car’s passenger side and toppled it sideways.

Bursic-Panchuk sustained critical injuries and was airlifted by STARS to Regina, where she underwent surgery to remove the pressure on her brain.

Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk’s mother, Sandra LaRose, said her daughter battled her injuries for five days, but on the day of her 17th birthday, on Aug. 21, doctors said there was no hope she would recover and maintain any quality of life. (Sandra LaRose/Facebook)

Teen’s last wish to donate organs

LaRose said news of the crash was like a punch to the stomach.

« It was like time stood still. But yet everything was racing, everything at once. »

LaRose was by her daughter’s bedside for the next five days. On Aug. 21, her daughter’s 17th birthday, doctors told LaRose there was no hope her daughter would recover and maintain any quality of life.

LaRose and the family made the difficult decision to let Bursic-Panchuk go, but honoured her wishes to donate her organs. That wish, inspired by the Humboldt Broncos’ tragedy, saved three lives.

« It’s heartbreaking. Most days I wonder how can i live without her, » LaRose said. « But I know she would be mad at me if i didn’t try and do something. »

Sandra LaRose says she always knew she loved her daughter, Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk, but didn’t realize the extent of her love until her daughter’s death at the age of 17. (Sandra LaRose/Facebook)

That something starts with sharing her daughter’s story.

« Whether it’s in your hand, or on your seat, it doesn’t matter, it’s still illegal. It’s still distracted driving, » LaRose said.

« There is nothing more important than life. And if you get into an accident like this, you can’t answer the phone ever again. »

LaRose said she just wishes she could hear her daughter say ‘I love you,’ one more time. But she knows that won’t happen.

« One lapse of judgment not only cost her her life, it cost me and her dad and my husband and her siblings. It cost everybody — her. »


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Frightened Brit texted Mom from North Shore cliff edge before being plucked from perch


When first-time B.C. tourist Michael John Buckingham headed up the Grouse Grind on Monday, he had an extra battery pack for his iPhone 8, two compasses — and he grabbed a stranger’s phone number on the way up — just in case.

That move may have saved his life.

Some 15 hours later — the rain-sodden Brit was plucked off a tiny ledge by rescuers using a longline on a helicopter.

But there was a lot of drama in the meantime.

« Basically I just thought I was going to die for 15 hours, » the rescued man would later tell reporters.

But there were no such thoughts that day as the 37-year-old East Londoner headed up the steep trail with a friend he’d met at a local hostel.

His companion would eventually turn back, but Buckingham, an avid hiker, pushed on — planning a circular route using the Maps.me app on his phone.

North Shore Rescue posted this photo showing where Michael Buckingham, 37, spent the night on Crown Mountain. The caption said it’s ‘an extreme example of what can happen when you get off route’ and that Buckingham was ‘very very lucky to have not fallen.’ (North Shore Rescue/Instagram)

He planned to descend by dark, but the hike took longer than he expected, because he says the app didn’t take into account the steepness of the terrain.

When he hit a dizzying mountain ridge — he knew he was in trouble.

Buckingham says he panicked and turned down an overgrown trail and he was later told that he went over Beauty or West Crown Peak.

Somehow, he ended up stranded on a cliff near Crown Buttress Trail — just above Grouse Mountain.

He says that from where he sat he could not see how precarious his position was through the mist and jet-lag.

« I don’t know how I got there. I had no ropes or climbing equipment. My girlfriend said I must be half mountain goat, » he said.

« I had no idea it was a cliff. I couldn’t see it. I just thought if I go any further I’m gonna die and it’s impossible to go back. »

Rescuers said the fact that he stopped and called a stranger for help probably saved Buckingham’s life.

Michael Buckingham headed up the Grouse Grind on Monday morning with water, two compasses and a good map. He planned a hike with a friend, but ended up stranded near a vertical drop. (Michael Buckingham)

That woman alerted police — who dispatched North Shore Rescue.

Monday night, a helicopter failed to reach him because visibility was too poor.

Then, as ground crews reached him, an inventive rescuer tied two lengths of rope together to make a 100-metre rope that was just able to get to him with 50 centimetres to spare.

Buckingham was secured on the cliff ledge with a big spring-loaded metal clip or carabiner — which stayed in place until the helicopter arrived Tuesday morning.

North Shore rescuer Jason McEwan rappelled from the helicopter down to Buckingham, who was a long way from London, where he plays trombone in a band.

At one point, Michael Buckingham, 37, stripped off his sweat-soaked shirt and set it on a rock, hoping it would make it a little easier for rescuers to spot him. The stunning view from his perch of Burrard inlet, he says, was terrifying. (Michael Buckingham)

« He was a little cold. He’d made the right decision to stop and not go any further, » said McEwan who brought the stranded man a bag of supplies — heated underwear, a sleeping bag, a food bar, a small torch, gloves and a balaclava — then left him.

The ledge was too small for two men

That’s when Buckingham says he texted his Mom, who he says has terminal myeloma cancer.

« She said if she’d lost me, she wouldn’t be able to go on. »

He stayed there in the dark — playing 20 games of online chess to calm his nerves — until, with dawn breaking, the helicopter came and a longline was used to hoist the shaking man to safety.

Michael Buckingham, shortly after a helicopter crew rescued him from Crown Mountain. He spent more than 12 hours stranded in rainy, wet conditions. (Yvette Brend/CBC)

Buckingham was set down by the helicopter Tuesday morning, bewildered and chilled and was immediately surrounded by reporters who, he says, went live with his comments before he realized he was on camera.

« It was freezing, » said Buckingham.

He described how he reacted, when he saw rescuers coming.

« I was crying like a little girl. »

Now that he’s safe off the mountain, Buckingham says he plans to make a $1,500 donation to North Shore Rescue, as soon as he can get the bank to transfer the money.

« I can’t praise them enough. I think about bits and start [to] cry at how lucky I am. I don’t know how many people were up that mountain, but I’m thankful for every single one, » he said.

The lost hiker’s orange T-shirt was laid on a rock near the spot where he got stuck as a beacon for searchers. (Michael Buckingham)

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