Whitehorse residents have been hit hard by the loss of two young people this week.
Clare Cherepak, 15, and Brendan Kinney, 20, died after a car crash on the Alaska Highway in the early hours of Saturday morning.
“It is with deep sadness that we mourn the sudden and tragic loss of one of our students,” wrote Ryan Sikkes, principal of Vanier Catholic Secondary School, where Cherepak attended, on the school’s website.
“Her smile, warmth and humour will be missed by staff and students alike.”
Vanier is open from noon to four this week for students and community members to get together and share memories of Cherepak.
“It is heartening to read all the posts on this and Clare’s page – I know her family appreciates all your support during this difficult time,” wrote Sikkes.
“When dealing with tragic events like this, it is also important to take care of yourselves. Counsellors will be available at Vanier Catholic Secondary to talk to anyone who has been affected by this incident.”
As of Tuesday the school’s reception area had transformed into a memorial for the teenager.
Just inside the front doors sat a small table with a photo of Cherepak, a burning candle, flowers and a bible.
Behind that, friends and teachers posted photos and wrote memories in marker on a large poster board.
Also nearby were craft supplies to make a colourful card or a small felt heart to give to Cherepak’s family or someone else in need of support.
Brochures with information on places to go and people to call for help and comfort were also on hand.
“With the heaviest of hearts we mourn the loss of our beloved daughter, sister and friend Clare Cherepak,” wrote members of her family in a message posted on the Vanier website.
A memorial service and reception for Cherepak will take place at Vanier on Thursday at 2 p.m.
The family asks attendees to “come as you are, or in bright colours, just as Clare would have liked.”
Cherepak’s family has requested that well-wishers donate to the Whitehorse Food Bank or Blood Ties Four Directions instead of bringing flowers, “to honour Clare’s compassionate and giving nature.”
“Clare was loved by many and will be missed by all.”
Cherepak’s friends and family have also gathered online at a Facebook page called “RIP Clare Cherepak” to share memories, photos and condolences.
Porter Creek Secondary School, where Kinney graduated in 2012, has also opened its doors “to students or others from the community who want to talk, to post a message or photo, or leave a private written message for the families,” wrote vice-principal Trevor Ratcliff on the school’s website.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends.”
Counsellors are available there as well, from noon through four this week.
Cherepak and Kinney were both passengers in a Honda Accord around 3 a.m. Saturday when the car collided with a semi-truck pulling a B-train.
The RCMP investigation is ongoing, but police suspect that the driver of the Accord attempted to turn into the intersection at Robert Service Way when it was struck by the truck.
A third passenger, an 18-year-old male, was medevaced to Vancouver General Hospital where he is in serious but stable condition.
The car’s driver, a 15-year-old female, was treated for injuries at Whitehorse General Hospital and has been released.
The truck driver was not harmed.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at