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'If I think about all of the amazing things, it just takes a little bit of the sting away'

Sea to Sky local remembers community's support one year after fatal accident

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Bekah Mann, right, was killed in a car accident on the Sea to Sky highway one year ago. Her sister Joy Pringle, left, was overwhelmed by the community's support following the tragedy. - PHOTO SUBMITTED
  • Photo submitted
  • Bekah Mann, right, was killed in a car accident on the Sea to Sky highway one year ago. Her sister Joy Pringle, left, was overwhelmed by the community's support following the tragedy.

Just over a year ago, on Dec. 2, Joy Pringle was riding up Whistler Mountain's Peak Chair when she spotted a sundog—the rainbow-coloured patch of light, caused by ice crystals in the atmosphere, that appears to form a halo around the sun. 

Her first instinct was to snap a photo for her younger sister, Bekah Mann. 

"I was trying to get a photo to send Bekah because she loved rainbows—everything that Bekah was about was, like, rainbows and peace signs; she just loved anything colourful." However, "By the time I had got my gloves off and got my phone out, we were at the top ... so I missed that opportunity."

Sadly, Pringle would have never been able to show her sister the photo. Just before noon on a sunny, clear Sunday—around the same time that Pringle spotted the sundog—Mann was killed in a car accident on Highway 99 while driving to work at Whistler Olympic Park from the home she shared with her older sister in Squamish. Mann was 23 years old. 

Bekah Mann was killed in a multi-vehicle accident while traveling north on Highway 99 on Dec. 2, 2018. - IMAGE SUBMITTED. SUNDOG PHOTO (RIGHT) BY ANNA LENGSTRAND
  • Image submitted. Sundog photo (right) by Anna Lengstrand
  • Bekah Mann was killed in a multi-vehicle accident while traveling north on Highway 99 on Dec. 2, 2018.

Later, Pringle reached out to local Facebook groups to see if anyone else managed to capture the sundog she saw that day.

She received "dozens" of responses.

One of the images, taken by Anna Lengstrand, was printed on the programs at Mann's celebration of life, and is now displayed in Pringle's home; blown up and framed as a gift from a friend. 

This small gesture serves as just one of countless examples of how the community rallied to support Mann's family following the tragedy, Pringle explained. She reached out to Pique on the one-year anniversary of her sister's death, looking to express her gratitude to the many friends, strangers and fellow locals who offered her kindness during these challenging times. 

"The amount of compassion that was shown to us from start to—it continues to this day; everyone has been absolutely amazing," Pringle said.

She recalled Dec. 6 in particular, when, just four days after the accident, she was in Function Junction running errands for Mann's celebration of life, in a state that she could only describe as "an emotional mess."

No matter which storefront she visited that day, "my money was no good," Pringle said.

Her first stop was Toad Hall Studios, where she had ordered hundreds of scans of Mann's artwork and family photos, as well as rainbow-peace sign "Love like Bekah" stickers. Staff offered Pringle their condolences and refused to let her pay for the vast majority of the bill. She stopped at the Whistler Garden Centre for flowers, where women behind the counter greeted her with hugs and a colourful bouquet, refusing any payment. 

Armed with a piece of Mann's artwork, Pringle continued on to Art Junction Gallery, to have it framed by an employee. "As he passed me the framed art piece, he said it was a gift from the gallery," Pringle remembered.

Finally, she wandered into Deja Vogue boutique, looking for a rainbow-coloured dress to wear for the celebration. "I found this colourful star dress, and as I stood in line to pay, the lady in front of me asked if she could buy the dress for me," Pringle said. Celebrate Events and Patina Home Interiors donated decorations, as well. 

The support surrounding the celebration of life extended to Mann's workplace. Whistler Olympic Park was closed for an afternoon to host the event, in addition to hosting Mann's family overnight. "They let us rearrange the whole Day Lodge—it was rainbow-Bekah art everywhere," said Pringle.  

It wasn't just businesses that were there for Pringle, but strangers who approached her, on the street or on social media, with a hug, a kind word, or a message that began with, "You don't know me, but..." 

Bekah Mann was passionate about both art and the environment - passions she often fused together in pieces like the one pictured above. Mann's final wish was a green burial, made possible by a successful GoFundMe campaign. - IMAGE SUBMITTED
  • Image submitted
  • Bekah Mann was passionate about both art and the environment - passions she often fused together in pieces like the one pictured above. Mann's final wish was a green burial, made possible by a successful GoFundMe campaign.

It was those who donated to the family's GoFundMe, raising more than $30,000 to help Mann's family facilitate her final wish: A green burial, next to her cousins on Vancouver Island. 

It was fellow motorists driving by the accident, who, after Pringle took to the Sea to Sky Road Conditions Facebook group desperately seeking answers when Mann failed to show up for her shift, delicately messaged her with information and photos of the damaged black Subaru. It was a woman who sent Pringle a private message, explaining that she was first on the scene and, after trying to help Mann, held vigil over her for more than two hours. "She was never alone, which is something I would find peace in," the message read.

It was the paramedics who attended the scene of the accident, who later signed a card for Pringle, offering their condolences and their availability if she ever needed anyone to talk to.

It was the "phenomenal" police officers that dealt with Pringle "so sweetly" after being dispatched to deliver the terrible news. "You can just tell that they were hurting and it wasn't an easy job for them as well," she said. "It was just nice to have someone that told us with a lot of compassion." 

In a follow-up email, Pringle added, "Police officers, firefighters, and paramedics sometimes have to deal with heavy calls and I know that this day was not easy on anyone that was involved. Please give them a little love, or consider donating to a charity that supports first responders living with [Post-traumatic Stress Disorder]—like a local not-for profit called Camp My Way."

While Pringle acknowledges the past year has been exceptionally difficult, she said she's trying to heal by focusing on the good, and the gratitude she feels towards those who offered her and her family a helping hand. 

"If I think about all of the amazing things, it just takes a little bit of the sting away from what happened," she said.

"As a community in whole, you all made an impact and I felt loved, supported and never alone. Thank you."

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