Two paths cross, tragically

A memorial for Courtney Bellerose is growing alongside McBride Boulevard where she was struck Saturday by a motorcycle as she crossed the busy four-lane road. The motorcyclist, Sonny Zalkowski, also a New West resident, was also killed.

A memorial for Courtney Bellerose is growing alongside McBride Boulevard where she was struck Saturday by a motorcycle as she crossed the busy four-lane road. The motorcyclist, Sonny Zalkowski, also a New West resident, was also killed.

“If you had rehearsed it a thousand times in Hollywood, you’d never get the timing right. It was so perfect and so wrong.”

Published June 8 2008
Courtney Bellerose and Sonny Zalkowsky both loved animals.
For many years 38-year-old Sonny owned a giant monitor lizard named Buddy. The New Westminster resident began caring for it after the previous owner decided to get rid of the fast-growing reptile, which eventually grew to three feet.
“So he ended up adopting it. He rented a home with an extra room so he could care for this thing,” said Anne Baumgardner, a childhood friend of Sonny now living in Houston, Tex.
“He would carry around pictures in his wallet of this lizard because he cared for it so much. It was like a child to him.”
For 16-year-old Courtney, her dog Mr. Wiggles and her cat Spaz were two of her closest friends. If she had her way, she would have had more pets.
“She wanted to bring every animal home that she could possibly bring home,” said her father Brian. “But unfortunately when you have five daughters, it’s hard to fit everybody in under one roof.”
Courtney wanted to be a veterinarian or a marine biologist while Sonny made a living as a sheet metal worker.
In a tragic accident Saturday, both lives ended when their paths intersected.
The accident occurred around 4 p.m. when Courtney jaywalked across McBride Boulevard near Ginger Drive to get to the Queen’s Park side, police say. She was struck in the curb lane nearest the park and thrown 100 feet.
Sonny, travelling towards the Pattullo Bridge on his motorbike, had just passed cars in the centre lane and his view of Courtney may have been obscured as a result. The collision threw him 150 feet.
Courtney, a student at New Westminster secondary school, died en route to hospital while Sonny passed away Sunday in hospital, after being taken off life support.
The sterile police report doesn’t describe the two heart-broken families, distraught friends and voids left in the lives of those who knew them.
But those grieving were heartened to know the two received immediate care. A Surrey fireman on his way to work was first on scene within moments, providing first aid to Courtney. A woman with first aid training, also from Surrey, tried to assist Sonny moments after the accident.
Baumgardner takes solace in that. Sonny was best known for caring for his friends. So much so that many of his friends called him their best friend. He was an organ donor and his heart and lungs went to others in need.
“There he goes, giving again,” said friend Joey Hodson.
“I don’t think Sonny could have lived with himself if he had survived and she (Courtney) died. That was the kind of person he was.”
Students at New Westminster secondary school’s RCAP (Royal City Alternative Program) visited the home of their classmate Courtney on Monday. Brian, who supports the family by working in Fort McMurray, Alta., said the family tried to help them deal with their grief.
“They don’t know how to feel, they’re so mixed up inside because they’re so young,” he said.
“But for a parent this is your worst nightmare times a thousand.”
Counsellors were brought in to assist RCAP staff and students who knew her.
Teachers and counsellors are deeply affected, said Const. Tomi Hamner, the police liaison officer at the secondary school.
“Everyone is profoundly affected by this,” said Hamner. “Especially those who worked with her.”
Sonny’s worksite was shut down Monday as his co-workers dealt with their loss. His best friend Kevin Hodson, a postal worker in Langley, hasn’t been able to return to work this week.
Those who knew the two are having difficulty understanding the tragedy.
Courtney was on her way to a friend’s home on the other side of Queen’s Park. Normally she took the bus to get there, but she probably missed it that one time.
“She probably didn’t see or hear the bike coming,” said Brian.
“If you had rehearsed it a thousand times in Hollywood, you’d never get the timing right. It was so perfect and so wrong.”
Sonny raced motorbikes at Mission Raceway and had been a rider since his 20s.
“I want people to know this wasn’t some guy just streaking down the road. He was an experienced rider. It was just a tragic event,” said Baumgardner.
“They were just two people in the wrong place at the wrong time is what it sounds like.”

• A service for Courtney is being held Thursday at 7 p.m. at the bell tower in the co-op housing complex off Ginger Drive where she lived. A funeral service for Sonny is Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Cloverdale Royal Canadian Legion (17567 57th Ave.).
mmcquillan@newwestnewsleader.com

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One response to “Two paths cross, tragically

  1. If I had a buck for every time I came to 7squaremiles.wordpress.com… Great article.

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