Mother of teen who died walking home from grad party speaks out

June is normally a happy time of year for celebrating high school graduations, but the mom of a Cape Breton teen is shocked by his sudden death early Sunday morning.

Jenn Hanna says her son Joneil was at a graduation party at a house in Leitches Creek, N.S. She says he was walking home with friends along Highway 223 after the party at around 3:30 a.m.

“My son was bent over to tie his shoe when he was struck and a few of his friends pulled him out of the ditch and tried to do CPR,” Hanna said.

Hanna says her son, Joneil Hanna, had been struck by a car and died from his injuries a short time later in hospital. He had just turned 17 last month.

Police say a vehicle was seized at the scene and members of the Traffic Safety Unit are investigating the cause of the collision. They have not charged the driver and police will not say what, if any, charges will be laid.

As police investigate, friends and family are shocked by the sudden loss and struggle to make the necessary arrangements.

“It's been hectic,” Jenn Hanna said. “We just left the funeral home and made all of the arrangements. We are in there now making his obituary.”

Hanna says her son leaves behind two brothers and an eight-month-old daughter.

In the aftermath of the party, tents and alcohol bottles remain behind police tape almost two days later. Cape Breton Regional Police confirmed Monday they received multiple calls about the party and say hundreds of teens were present, but decided not to break it up.

“The officers in their reports indicated the area was fairly dark, so they were not, for officer safety reasons, entering on to the property,” said Staff Sgt. Bill Turner of the Cape Breton Regional Police.

Police say some of the teens were arrested for underage drinking.

Joneil Hana was a Grade 11 student at Memorial High School. Grief counsellors were on hand Monday for staff and students, and will be there for as long as they're needed.

“It's a pretty sad day,” said Grade 10 student Rylan MacLean. “Not a lot of happy faces.”

Dovi Walker, a Grade 10 student, said he was playing soccer with Hanna in gym class last week.

“It's scary,” he said. “It could've been anyone.”

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Cape Breton Regional Police or Crime Stoppers