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Friends remember young family killed in Hwy. 69 crash

'She was a truly great mother,' friend says of woman killed in crash
Hunter Chamberlain, Bentley, Victoria Whitehead. GoFundMe photo.

Everything that mattered in Victoria Whitehead's world could be summed up in one seven-letter word: Bentley.

Just a few months away from graduating from Sault College, Victoria lived for her two-year-old son.

"I've never seen her purchase a single thing for herself," remembers Rebecca Laura Chapman, who knew Victoria from her student days at White Pines and Sir James Dunn and considered the nursing student her best friend.

"Everything she did, she did for him. She was a truly great mother," says Chapman.

Bentley had biliary atresia, described by the Canadian Liver Foundation as "a relatively rare disease that begins in early infancy and affects about one in every 10,000 to 20,000 infants."

"In biliary atresia the bile duct that leads from the liver to the intestine becomes damaged, preventing bile from leaving the liver. In the early stages the bile duct outside the liver is mainly affected, but in later stages bile ducts inside the liver are also damaged."

"This can lead to build-up of bile in the liver which can be harmful to the liver. Unless bile flow can be established, liver function is gradually lost and affected children rarely survive beyond two years of age."

Bentley was being treated at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

He travelled there for a medical appointment this week, accompanied by Victoria and his father, Hunter Chamberlain.

On the way back to Sault Ste. Marie, the unthinkable happened.

On Highway 69 in Shawanaga First Nation territory near Parry Sound, a northbound SUV carrying the three Saultites crossed the centre line and crashed into a southbound tractor trailer.

The SUV was engulfed in flames so fierce that four days later, investigators aren't sure how many people were in the SUV.

They are certain that everyone in the vehicle died.

No names have been released so far by police, but multiple sources have confirmed that Victoria, Bentley and Hunter all lost their lives.

Victoria graduated from White Pines and started nursing studies at Sault College in 2014.

That same year, Hunter was a NOSSA champion wrestler in the 61-kilogram class.

They met, and the following year, 2015, Bentley entered their lives at 10:19 a.m. on Sept. 14, weighing into the world at 3.7 kilograms (eight pounds, one ounce).

Hunter was a middle child in a large family and would have celebrated his 21st birthday later this month on Feb. 25.

He was educated in the Sault at Parkland Public School and White Pines Collegiate and Vocational School.

in 2008, Hunter was one of 15 Sault children who received new bicycles, helmets, locks and bells from Sault Ste. Marie Police Service and Tim Hortons.

He told SooToday's Carol Martin that he'd wrecked his last bike trying to do tricks, and promised us he'd never, ever use the new bike for trick riding.

Hunter Chamberlain grew into an enterprising and hard-working young man.

He started out delivering the Sault Star and then worked at Arturo Ristorante, Giovanni's Restaurant, G&K Services, Jiffy Lube, Burger Don and Mr. Transmission.

Hunter developed a love for classic cars and mountain bicycles, and expressed displeasure on his Facebook page last spring when "people who are too lazy to work" stole his expensive Cannondale Trail 29 bike.

On Friday, Rebecca Chapman launched a GoFundMe campaign aimed at raising $2,000 to help Victoria's mother, Jodey Whitehead, pay for funeral expenses.

The campaign struck a chord among Saultites.

By 2 p.m. on Saturday, it had raised more than double its targeted goal, with 96 donors contributing almost $4,400.

Many posted condolences on the GoFundMe page.

"Hunter was my favourite coworker. I loved him so much as well as everyone at the Burger Don family," wrote Jessica Merling.

"Hunter helped me with work around my house and impressed me as hardworking and dedicated to his family. It was a privilege to know him if only briefly," said Art Osborne.

"From your friends at Coles Station Mall circa 2008-2012. We are so sorry for your loss. Bentley faced a lot of challenges in his short life and you faced them all with such bravery," added Erin McCaig.

"I live not far from where the accident happened. It is a bad stretch of highway. My deepest condolences," said Joan Hunt.


David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans six decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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