'THE RIGHT THING IS FOR YOU TO STEP UP AND ACCEPT YOUR ROLE.'
KAMLOOPS - For the past five days, Cameron Gatey has walked from his Aberdeen home to the bus stop across the street first thing in the morning.
It’s where a roadside memorial is growing for his daughter. Jennifer Gatey, 16, was walking from her backyard to the Pacific Way bus stop on Friday night, Nov. 4, when she was hit by a car. Gatey says she died instantly.
It was an ordinary Friday evening, he says. Jennifer got home from school around 4:40 p.m. and went through her backyard where she saw her father sitting. She sat down and talked to him and they discussed plans for Jennifer’s 17th birthday the next day. Gatey offered Jennifer a ride to the gym, but she said she was happy to take the bus.
Gatey says Jennifer went inside, had a bite to eat and got ready to go to the gym. She went out their sliding glass door which entered their backyard, went through the gate and began walking across Pacific Way toward the bus stop.
“It’s basically out our back gate, down and across,” Gatey says, noting the stop is about 100 feet away from the family’s backyard.
But around 6:40 that evening, she was hit by a car. The driver took off and Kamloops RCMP launched an investigation into the hit and run.
“I understand that this kind of stuff can happen but it’s… leaving the person that I go ‘okay as the person who did that, the right thing is for you to step up and accept your role in this’,” Gatey says.
The Gatey family was sitting in their home while this happened just across the street from them. A neighbour heard what sounded like a vehicle hitting something. When he went over to investigate, he saw Jennifer lying on the ground.
“We didn’t hear anything, that’s another one of the heartbreaking parts of this. We’re sitting in our house here and she’s lying on the road 100 feet away,” Gatey says. “It’s… comforting to know that she wasn’t there alone, that this person had heard the sound, ran over, stayed with her, called 911 and stayed with her until the police arrived.”
About an hour after the accident, the doorbell rang.
“My wife went to answer it. I was curious to know why somebody would be here Friday evening,” Gatey says. “I came down the stairs and of course there’s two RCMP (officers) there.
“Coming down the stairs and seeing two RCMP officers there, I distinctly remember thinking ‘Holy crap. I hope that she was shoplifting or spray-painted a bench somewhere, anything. Please be anything’,” Gatey says.
The officers told the Gateys that there was no easy way to say it, but their daughter had been hit and killed by a car. Gatey says the rest of their visit was a blur.
“No matter how strong of a person you are, you’re utterly devastated,” Gatey says. “Your legs fall out from underneath you. Unless you’ve had it, you can’t fully appreciate it.”
Gatey says he is heartbroken over Jennifer’s death and as much as he would like to see the driver behind the accident brought to justice, he doesn’t hold any resentment toward the person.
“I have no idea who the person is, I have no idea what they’re like,” Gatey says. “I can only imagine that no matter who they are, they’ve got people in their life who love them and if they are found, when they are found, whatever the case may be, it’s going to be a tragedy for their family too.”
REMEMBERING JENNIFER'S LIFE
But Gatey doesn’t want to focus on the event that took his daughter’s life, he wants to focus on who she was as a person.
“Quite frankly, I could go on forever about Jennifer,” Gatey says. “I can remember the day she was born.”
She was born on Nov. 5 and killed just hours before her 17th birthday. Gatey says his daughter’s 17 years were full of life, sports, family and love. A natural athlete, Jennifer spent time playing competitive soccer and golfing with her father.
One of his most cherished memories, he says, was this past Father’s Day he got to spend with Jennifer. She had taken a couple of years off of playing golf, but she took this opportunity to let her dad know she wanted to pick it up again.
“I distinctly remember, it was on Father’s Day and I thought she was just indulging me as a Father’s Day present,” Gatey says. “I thought okay great at least you’re wanting to do something that you know is important to me but it turns out it was more than that, she wanted to get back into the game.”
They spent the rest of the summer golfing together, where Jennifer would tell her father what she was interested in and what was going on in her life. They had the same conversations while Gatey was teaching her how to drive, in preparation for a road test that was scheduled for Nov. 21.
“She was a great kid,” Gatey says. “She wasn’t perfect, there’s no question about that. No teenager is.”
Jennifer had the same independence and strong personality as her father. She was a teenager with many interests reaching far past social media and video games, Gatey says.
“She was very interested in a lot of things. You’re sitting here at her piano,” Gatey tells me. “She was quite a good piano player.”
The Gatey family is beginning a long process of grief and sorrow, but they are trying to focus.
“It’s a huge loss, another human being that you loved and cared for, for so many years and that loved and cared for you back,” Gatey says. “They’re just suddenly gone.
“It’s thinking about that process of… she’s not going to be around to be with us and see us get old and for us to see her grow up the rest of her life. I can only describe it as this incredible void in your soul. It’s so hard to think everyday that she’s not going to be there.”
Gatey says he wants to thank the Aberdeen community and the city of Kamloops for coming together to pay tribute to Jennifer at her memorial.
"To know that there are so many people that have been touched by Jennifer’s life in some way or another and that she did something for them, that they remember her fondly is very nice," Gatey says.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.
We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.