ÎYÂRHE NAKODA – The lights were off and students and staff were on spring break when a car crashed into Mînî Thnî (Morley) Community School and drove around its hallways last week.
An investigation by RCMP is still ongoing after a blue Hyundai Elantra smashed through the Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation school’s east entrance in the early morning hours of Wednesday (April 12).
“Closed circuit television shows the Elantra being driven down several hallways of the school causing extensive damage; estimated to be in excess of $150,000,” reads an RCMP media release. “The vehicle was located and seized. A search warrant is pending.”
Cochrane RCMP responded to the report around 6:30 a.m. Nakoda Emergency Services director Reg Fountain said the Nation’s emergency personnel were first alerted to the scene by damages to other properties leading to the school.
“We called it into RCMP because of the damage. There were other things that took place which indicated the direction of the vehicle and there was additional damage on the Nation,” he said.
“We did track down the vehicle and passed the handling over to RCMP, who facilitated further investigation and the apprehension of a suspect.”
According to the RCMP media release, a male suspect has been arrested, however, his name will not be released until the information is sworn.
As no one was at the school at the time, there were no reported injuries, said Fountain, though he could not speak to the condition of the driver.
Stoney Education Authority superintendent Bill Shade said the school took significant damage where the car entered and throughout the hallways. The school’s maintenance team has put temporary fixes in place to the damaged entryway, which is separate from the school’s main entrance.
“We had Nakoda Emergency Services inspect the building; they gave it a checkmark in terms of risk assessment and then we had an engineer from Indigenous Services Canada who also gave it a clean bill of health,” he said.
“We felt it was very important to get our students back in school, in a safe environment.”
The school was closed Monday and Tuesday and students are set to return today (April 19).
“We were able to overcome such a difficult situation to have our students return,” said Shade. “The focus on how hard our staff worked together to overcome and have our students return is quite an accomplishment.”
Shade said it will take some time to finish repairs and get new custom-made doors in place, but the temporary solution meets security and safety standards.
Protective services have also increased patrols in the area.
“Safety and security of students and people that work in the area is our paramount concern,” said Fountain. “We have adjusted some of our patrolling and added additional staff and patrols in that area to ensure the safety and security of the Nation, but with a primary focus on the elementary school, daycare, women’s shelter, and Mînî Thnî Community School.”
On March 30, RCMP ordered both schools to go into lockdown near the end of the school day due to an individual threatening people with what appeared to be a BB gun. The individual, plus a second person thought to be an accomplice outside of the school area, were apprehended by RCMP.
No one was harmed in the incident and the lockdown ended a short time later. Fountain said it is not believed the two incidents are related.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. The position covers Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation and Kananaskis Country.