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The Telegram (St. John's)
News, Thursday, March 31, 2005, p. A1


Driver yet to be identified

With an investigation into the hit-and-run death of a Portugal Cove teen now in its third day, police have yet to identify the driver of the vehicle involved in the deadly incident.


But Staff Sgt. June Layden, spokesperson for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC), said the investigation is moving forward.

Describing it as a top priority, Layden said the RNC has dedicated substantial resources to the case.


"The investigation is ongoing, and we have received some information, but we're still attempting to identify the driver," Layden said late Wednesday afternoon.


On Wednesday, police released the identity of the victim - 15-year-old Matthew Rodney Churchill of Portugal Cove.


Churchill was a student at Leary's Brook junior high in St. John's. He also played in the midget division of the St. John's Minor Hockey Association.


Churchill and a 14-year-old friend from St. John's were walking along Bauline Line in Portugal Cove about 7:30 p.m. Monday when Churchill was struck from behind.


The driver of the vehicle fled the scene without stopping.


Both boys were taken to hospital, but Churchill later died of his injuries. The younger teen was treated for minor injuries and shock and was released.

The first big break came Tuesday morning, roughly 14 hours after the incident, when information provided to the RNC led to the discovery of the vehicle - a Pontiac Sunfire - believed to have been involved.


Car near scene

The Sunfire was discovered in a private driveway not far from the scene of the incident on Bauline Line, and Layden said it had sustained damage "consistent with a collision of this nature."


The vehicle is now at police headquarters, where it is being examined by experts in forensics, accident reconstruction and automotive mechanics.


"This is all standard procedure in any collision where there has been extensive injuries or death," she explained.


Investigators have spoken with the female owner of the car, but Layden wouldn't confirm if they believe she was operating the vehicle.


"It's possible someone else may have been operating (the vehicle), but it's equally possible the registered owner may have been. It's not determined who it was," she said.


Churchill was minutes from his home at the time of the incident.


Funeral services are planned for Friday.


Students visit school yard

Schools are now closed for Easter break, but some students gathered at Leary's Brook junior high Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon to lend support to one another.


School principal Byron Head has also stated that grief counsellors will be available when classes resume next week.


Meanwhile, anyone who may have witnessed the incident or has information related to the investigation is asked to contact Const. William Gosse at 729-8654 or 729-8000.

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