When Kayla Evans met Johnathon Neil, she was amazed someone so young could have accomplished so much.
“I figured I could do the same thing. He was very, very smart,” said Evans, who had dropped out of high school and was working at McDonald’s, where Neil, then 18, was supporting himself through trade school.
By the time the couple were in their early 20s, they had a new home in New Harbour, Neil was on his way to writing his journeyman electrician’s ticket and Evans got her diploma and was coming behind him in the electrical trade. They planned to marry.
Then, on Sept. 16, Evans’ life came crashing down when Neil, 22, left for work across the Tilton Barrens Road and struck a moose.
The accident happened around 7:20 a.m. But Evans didn’t find out until a few hours later, when a utility worker on the scene contacted her family.
Neil was pronounced dead at the health centre in Whitbourne. A passenger in Neil’s vehicle suffered minor injuries, police said at the time.
“I hope it’s something that nobody else has to go through,” Evans said of losing the love of her life. She left last weekend for Fort McMurray to find work, and has had to put their home up for sale. They’d only lived there a month and a half before the accident.
“He was a complete angel,” said her mother, Leanne, crediting Neil with turning her daughter’s life around after they met. “She was having a rough time and he straightened her up.”
“He was nice to everybody,” Evans said of her tall, blond-haired fiancé.
Evans has kept Neil’s inspiration in her heart. He would have written his journeyman’s test Oct. 15; she is an apprentice.
“It’s hard, but I’m trying,” she said. “These are all the things he would want. That pretty much gets me through each day.”
Evans said the province could have kept the brush cleared on the side of the road and that would have helped Neil see the moose. She described him as a good driver.
Because of the shock, Evans barely remembers that day, but Nancy Neil remembers waiting with her husband, John, for their son outside a bank in Bay Roberts, where they were expecting to take care of some family business.
It was raining, and Nancy Neil could barely make out Evans’ words through the tears when her cellphone rang around 10:20 a.m. Her middle child was dead, the day before his 22nd birthday.
Nancy, who commutes from Clarke’s Beach to her job at a trucking firm in St. Johns, said her son would always warn her about being careful of moose on the highway. Evans got the same warnings whenever she would head out over the barrens.
“He knew what he was doing and where he was going,” Nancy Neil said of her son’s ambition in life.
“We’re hanging in, but we have our moments.”
This week, the Neils heard in the media that St. John’s lawyer Ches Crosbie was launching a class action lawsuit against the government over moose accidents, and they met with him.
She said her goal is to see brush cut back and moose fencing installed on highways.
“Something has to be done,” she said.
In the print edition of The Weekend Telegram, read about what an ecologist and formal federal wildlife biologist feels is a cause of moose on the roads.