Coming to grips

Kyle Flett was the provincial runner up in the junior men's division last year and was one of the...

Kyle Flett was the provincial runner up in the junior men's division last year and was one of the favourites to win this year. His life ended tragically in a snowmobile accident on the weekend. (Winnipeg Sun File/Brian Donogh)

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

Petersfield's Dave Boehmer was still trying to come to grips with the sudden death of young Kyle Flett on the weekend.

The elite junior curler died as the result of a snowmobile accident. Apparently, the throttle got stuck and the machine flipped over.

"The whole community is devastated," Boehmer, an elite men's curler, said from his Petersfield home yesterday.

Boehmer was told of the tragedy when he returned home from the Labatt Manitoba Curling Championship playoffs in Portage la Prairie on Sunday night.

"It's awful," he said. "It's unbelieveable. I can only imagine what the family's going through. And they were a major curling family, too. They followed him no matter where he played."

Flett, 20, had recently qualified for the Target Junior Men's Provincial Championship in Rivers after losing the final to Travis Bale just last year.

Carry the torch

"He should have won that game," Boehmer said. "And I'm sure the boys would have had a great chance to win it this year because they were playing in men's, too. In fact, I just played him in a semifinal in our (Safeway Select) rural zone."

Kyle was the nephew of B.C.'s former world champion Greg McAulay, who grew up in the Petersfield area and was the junior's curling hero.

"His family was so proud of him," Boehmer said. "We were all looking for him to carry the torch for curling in Petersfield with McAulay gone (to B.C.) and me getting a little long in tooth. He was a good kid, too. He was a good athlete and a good golfer. It's just hard to believe."

Kyle's sister, Kerri, also qualified for the junior women's provincial championship, to be played in Virden, Jan. 4-8.

"That was our lives -- our kids' curling," said Jeff Flett, Kyle's dad. "And when you've got two of the top skips in Manitoba, it gets pretty hectic.

"He was a dedicated athlete and my son told his mother that there would be no second place this year."

The close-knit junior curling community will also miss him.

"Everybody knew Kyle," said MCA official Russ Hinds, who will run the Junior Christmas Bonspiel again. "He was a good kid and a good curler. He was second last year and who knows what he would have done this year. He was a real up-and-comer.

"That's just terrible, and losing a child just before Christmas is tough, too. You know, my daughter (Kelsey who plays third for Nikki Hawrylyshen) lost the Canada Games Trials semifinal to Katie Kruk (Sunday) and there were tears all around, but this sure puts things into perspective."

Flett's team -- third Jason Redard, second Tyler Croy and Justin Janis -- had an emergency team meeting yesterday to decide if they would continue to compete, said coach Terry McRae.

"They want to go straight forward. We believe Kyle would want it that way,"said McRae. "We'll do our best to make Kyle proud of us."

McRae said one of Kyle's close friends has volunteered to fill the vacant spot and help the team compete in his memory.

"It was an absolute thrill being part of his life," said McRae.

The rink is seeking permission to keep Kyle's name as a tribute to him in the Christmas Bonspiel and the provincial playdowns in January.

McRae said Flett was a privilege to coach for four years.

"Kyle has always been very, very gifted. He was just a natural, born athlete," he said. "Since yesterday, our lives have changed and we lost our No. 1 guy. He was one of the sweetest gentlemen you'd ever meet."

The tragedy sent shockwaves throughout the curling community.

"This is pretty tragic and other things seem pretty small in comparison," said MCA executive director Ian Staniloff. "This has got to be very difficult and our condolences are with them.

"This is terrible, terrible. How does a family ever recover from something like that? Hopefully, the community and the family rallies around them."

The curling is secondary now, said MCA media relations director Kyla Denisuik.

"It's very sad," she said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family."

-- with files from Joyanne Pursaga


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