by Herald staff —

The community is mourning the sudden and tragic loss of City Councillor Claire Newman, who was killed in an apparent hit-and-run while driving to visit family last week.

According to a press release put by the City, Councillor Newman was travelling to visit her family when she was struck and killed by a vehicle outside of Valemount, B.C, while stopped at the side of the road. RCMP added in their own release that evidence suggest that she may have died in a hit-and-run.

Police said they responded late on Tuesday (July 4) to an automated cell phone crash notification on Highway 16 near Lucerne Lake, just west of the Alberta border. When officers arrived at the scene, they found a Nissan Frontier running at the roadside, unlocked and with a dog inside. No other vehicles were found in the area at that moment, although the body of a 46 year old woman, presumed to be Newman, was found in a ditch nearby. 

Also found at the scene was a grey headlight that belongs to a 2016 to 2018 Jeep Cherokee. Police said that evidence suggests Newman was hit outside of her vehicle, and would like to speak to the driver as well as anyone who may have been in the area from 11 p.m. Tuesday (July 4) until shortly after midnight on July 5.

The loss is undoubtedly felt by Newman’s family, along with her fellow councillors, the mayor, and city staff, all of whom have expressed their condolences and shared fond memories of working with the late councillor. Condolences have also poured in from mayors, councillors, provincial and federal elected officials, and community members.

“I have loved working with Claire,” said former Merritt CAO Sean Smith in a press release. “She was vibrant, curious, and had a passion for people that was contagious. Saying goodbye to friends is hard. I will miss her. And on behalf of all City staff, our sincere condolences go out to her family.”

Mayor Mike Goetz told the Herald that council was shaken after hearing the news of Newman’s passing, describing the group as a ‘family’ and a council. He also noted that a feeling of anger was involved for him, with his faith in humanity slightly shaken by the presumed hit-and-run that killed Newman.

“You don’t have the wherewithal to stop and help somebody? Where’s your humanity? What a coward. There’s nothing else to say, it’s a cowardly act,” said Goetz. “You took somebody that was a light for a lot of people, you ruined a family, and you’ve ruined a community. Not only this one, but Logan Lake, where she was very well loved, as she was loved here.”

Newman was first elected to Logan Lake’s council in 2008, and served until moving to Merritt and running for council successfully in the October 2022 municipal elections. Goetz described Newman as the ‘cheerleader’ of city council, always wanting to see the community succeed and being its biggest advocate despite being a relative newcomer. Goetz also noted that the city has reached out to Newman’s family to offer support and condolences.

In place of its regular council meeting on July 11, an unofficial memorial will be held for Newman in the council chambers at 6:00 p.m. that day, offering the opportunity for community members to sign a memory book, leave a card or memento for the family, or share a memory of Newman.

Anyone with information about the ongoing police investigation is asked to contact the Valemount RCMP detachment at 250-566-4466.