Among Vancouver's massive 4/20 weed celebration at Sunset Beach, a crew of skateboarders will be lighting one up for a lost friend, Ryan Barron, who was killed in a hit-and-run Sunday.
"Of course I'll be smoking for him and a few other friends I've lost in the past year," said Josh Kesselman, a friend and colleague of Barron's from Canada's largest rolling paper company, HBI Canada. Barron was hit while skating home with a friend early Sunday morning, and was flung 100 metres on impact. The driver also hit a tree before speeding off.
"I subscribe to the Irish Wake theory," Kesselman said. "The point of the Irish Wake is to celebrate life, not to be sad about all those that passed before… I've lost a lot of people in the last twelve months—four—and each time it's like I feel I have to party harder for them and to keep going."
Ahead of a formal memorial for Barron on Saturday, Kesselman will be remembering a tight-knit member of a skate and smoke community in which, he says, "none of us ever really grew up." That community is also reaching out—and putting money on the line—to help police find the driver who fled the scene.
In a Facebook and Instagram post from the RAW Rolling Papers, Kesselman offered $25,000 out of his own pocket to anyone who can help with the ongoing investigation. "The driver was in a late model silver Mitsubishi; if you happen to have any solid info that will help us catch and prosecute the bastard I'm offering a $25k reward," reads his post. "All I ask is that the next puff you draw, think of Ryan and smile."
Kesselman says the cash reward is the least he can do to get some closure for Barron's family and friends from all over Canada who have been shocked by the incident. "I really want some justice for Ryan," he said. "I don't want to live in a country where people will hit you on the road and leave you for dead, and then drive off and get away with it."
Barron had moved from Windsor to Vancouver over a year ago, and was just promoted at HBI on Friday.
"He's one of those fun people that you really like having around because they enjoy life more than others," Kesselman said. "I stopped by the new warehouse and he was so excited to show me this new laser-guided forklift that we have. He took me for a ride on it."
Police say they've collected evidence from the scene, and say the car will have fresh damage on the driver's side of the car. Kesselman hopes the reward will bring the car's passengers forward.
"Someone knows, man," he said. "At three in the morning, you're driving a 10-year-old silver Mitsubishi. In that area you're probably young, you're probably on the way back to Richmond. You've got a bunch of friends. They all know you did it. I just need one of those guys to come forward and tell me who it is."
"Ryan was a really good dude and he deserved a lot better than to be left for dead," added Kesselman. "He would definitely not want us just sitting around and depressed—that would be the opposite of what he would want."
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