A “friendly, gentle giant” of a teenager will be laid to rest Thursday in a memorial service that is expected to exceed the capacity of the East Hants Sportsplex.
Braeden Bannister, 15, died on Friday after a day spent deer hunting with his father, Jeff.
“We were out deer hunting and he had fired at a deer. And he walked back to the truck and just as he got to the truck, he collapsed,” Jeff Bannister said, late Monday afternoon, while heading home from making funeral arrangements. “I had to perform CPR for about 30 minutes until emergency services arrived. It’s the hardest thing I think anybody could have to do.”
Braeden never regained consciousness. And adding to the mystery as to why he collapsed is the fact that not even an autopsy was able to provide answers.
“The medical examiner called me today. There was no findings, they have no cause of death,” Jeff said. “It’s going to be hard for closure for sure.”
The only thing the medical examiner could tell him was that a small bruise was found on Braeden’s left shoulder.
“Which would be normal for the shot he fired,” Jeff said. “Even though he was only 15 years old, he wasn’t an amateur. That rifle, he has fired hundreds of times.”
He said his son belonged to a local shooting range and was accustomed to shooting hundreds of clay targets on a given day.
Braeden also played both competitive hockey and baseball, among other activities throughout his life.
Standing almost two metres (six-foot-one) tall, Braeden stood well above many of his peers. And while he used his size to effect on the ice, it was never in any type of bullying fashion, said Ryan Isenor, a family friend and former hockey coach who worked with the teen on the ice for about seven years.
“He was very happy to play hockey, he loved to score goals,” said Isenor, who like Jeff, referred to him as a friendly or gentle giant.
We are so saddened to learn of the passing of Braeden Bannister.— Hockey Nova Scotia (@HockeyNS) November 4, 2019
Braeden was a long-time member of the East Hants Minor Hockey Association who was known for his passion for the game and big smile.
Our condolences go out to his family and teammates.
🔗 https://t.co/1L8DGjC9sX pic.twitter.com/Lw2aPRr8wO
“It’s a hard day,” Isenor said, while adding that Braeden will be greatly missed by “our community, especially our hockey community.”
“As a young athlete, both hockey and baseball have been a very big part of Braeden's life, and he made so many friends playing both sports,” the East Hants Minor Hockey Association, posted on its website. “Braeden played hockey as a power forward with a passion for the game and always a smile on his face. He was coachable, competent and loved to compete.
“Braeden's passing has shaken our entire community and leaves a big void in the lives of those who knew and loved him.”
His father agreed.
“He was always smiling. It didn’t matter,” Jeff said. “If you looked at his pictures, there was always teeth showing. He was competitive, he enjoyed competing. If he was down in the corner, he would come out of the corner with a smile on his face.”
Since February, Braeden had also been a junior member of the Lantz Fire Department, something his father said he had eagerly looked forward to joining as soon as he had become of age.
“Since joining our ranks early this year, Braeden has been a very active member who took a keen interest in training and serving our community in any way possible,” the fire department posted on its website. “Our hearts go out to his family and many friends who share in our sorrow.
Generally, he was just a kid who tried to get the most out of every day, his father said.
“He was very active. He was involved in a lot of different things. He was going every day. Every time I turned around I had to run him somewhere, pick him up or drop him off. He went fishing, there was always a full agenda.”
And, he was also “very caring” to his younger brother Kevin.
“His younger brother has autism and that was his buddy. He looked after him and he put his interests before his own. He just had a huge heart,” Jeff said.
“It’s very, very devastating and with no answers it’s going to be hard for closure. He’s definitely going to be missed by the community. It’s unbelievable how many lives he touched in his short time here. The amount of people that have been by our home or who have called or texted. You know to rent the stadium to have a service for him and they know that’s not going to be enough, they’ve got to use the school (for overflow) too,” Jeff said.
Braeden’s mother Angie has many cherished memories to hang onto. But there are two that she will always hold close to her heart.
“His big smile and his heart of gold,” she said.
The memorial service for Braeden Bannister is set for 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at the East Hants Sportsplex.
A GoFundMe account has been established to assist the Bannister family. By Tuesday morning, the account stood at $26,924.