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Teen is left to pick up pieces

Posted on 22/01/2010 12:00am

Teen is left to pick up pieces
Crash killed his parents, badly injured his brother
Krista Bryce/Daily News
Nanaimo Daily News
January 22, 2010

His life changed in an instant last fall when a train and car crash killed his parents, but 17-year-old Shawn Hall is focused on helping his brain-injured brother recover.

The tragic Oct. 14 crash that killed Rosane Perreault, 44, Lyle Hall, 49, and left Andrew, 14, with a serious brain injury made national headlines and led to a rare safety inquiry of the railway crossing.

It could take a year or longer before a public report from the investigation, led by the Transportation Safety Board Of Canada, is released.

It has been a miraculous story of survival for Andrew, who doctors earlier predicted may die as he lay in a coma for weeks after being pulled out of the crumpled green Dodge Spirit the family was riding in.

Tonight, Shawn will rap at a downtown benefit concert dedicated to the memory of his parents and to raise money for the B.C. Children's Hospital Foundation, which has helped Andrew, who remains in care.

In his first media interview since the crash, Shawn said that he is coping the best he can and is doing "pretty good."

With his girlfriend of nine months by his side, Shawn has been thrust into adulthood as he balances Grade 11 classes with regular visits to his youngest brother at the Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children in Vancouver.

He still lives in the Bowman Avenue home he shared with his family, whose pictures adorn the fireplace mantle.

Crosses and flowers mark the Dorman Road site where his parents died but when he has a particularly hard day, it is not there he turns for comfort.

"If I want to visit them, there's pictures in the house. I talk to the pictures," said Shawn. "I know it happened and I can't do nothing to fix it. They didn't know it was coming so they died happy. They went together."

On that fateful Wednesday in the fall, Shawn had just returned home from John Barsby Secondary School when police officers knocked on his door shortly after 3 p.m.

One of them was Nanaimo RCMP Const. Norm Smith. He remembers asking the lone teenager if he was related to Perreault or Hall.

"Yeah, why?" Smith recalls Shawn asking. "It was pretty tough."

Until he went online to view images of the crushed car, Shawn said he did not believe the devastating news police told him as they waited for family and grief support workers to arrive.

"I was thinking they should have been home soon," recalled Shawn. "I don't know what they were doing on that road."

Andrew had stayed home sick from school that day and the family had gone to Woodgrove Centre to buy a video game before stopping at Walmart to buy dog food.

Perreault was behind the wheel. Shawn said he was ready to take his driving test around the same time as his mom, but held off because he did not want to make her feel bad. He has since earned his learner's permit.

Shawn's aunt and uncle now live with him in Harewood and he returned to school within two weeks of the crash, cocooned by friends and teachers. When he gets emotional, he can get angry and has learned it is sometimes better to simply leave school that day. He also regularly visits Andrew and will go there again next week.

Andrew has regained consciousness but cannot yet walk or speak, though he is aware of people around him. His cousin bought him a laptop and he can push buttons to communicate. He undergoes daily rehabilitation therapy.

Andrew has indicated he remembers the crash and understands that his parents are gone.

Shawn is hopeful he will be able to be moved to a group care home on Vancouver Island later this year.

For now, Shawn continues to work on his rap music. Nicknamed "Mista Trip," he hopes to one day record an album in honour of his family.

The concert tonight will be headlined by local rapper Sirreal, whose show Shawn attended the night before the tragedy.

Shawn has since become friends with Sirreal's wife Courtney Simmons, who helped organize the concert at the Nanaimo Youth Services Association, where she is a youth support worker.

All of the money raised will go toward the hospital, where Shawn believes Andrew will learn walk again.

"We were a close family," said Shawn. "I just deal with it when it comes."


The Hope for Children Benefit Concert, a fundraiser dedicated to the memory of Lyle Hall and Rose Perreault, takes place tonight at the Nanaimo Youth Services Association building.

The idea of Shawn Hall, whose brother Andrew is recovering at the Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children, the concert will raise money for the B.C. Children's Hospital Foundation.

It features eight hip-hop artists from across Canada, including Shawn, who will rap under his stage name of "Mista Trip."

The all-ages concert also features a DJ, freestyle sessions, door prizes, and refreshments.

Admission is by donation but anyone who cannot afford to pay is asked to bring a non-perishable food donation, to be collected for the Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank.

The concert runs from 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the NYSA building on Bastion Street. For information, call 250-754-1989, ext. 663.

The Daily News