LONDON, Ont. – The death of 29-year-old truck driver Roger Belanger this past July was a devastating blow to his family and the many who knew him, but that fact that $24,000 donated to his wife and children through the GoFundMe campaign has seemingly disappeared only adds to the tragedy.
Bonnie Purcell, who worked with Belanger for three years in London, Ont., said that one of Belanger’s online ‘friends’ had started the GoFundMe fundraiser the day following his death, and many people, including herself, donated, raising more than $24,000.
“Almost as quickly, more than $24,000 was taken from (Belanger’s) family,” said Purcell, claiming the money was taken by the person who launched the GoFundMe campaign.
Belanger’s sister, Roxanne Belanger, said that Fort McMurray RCMP is investigating the incident, and that charges are pending, but police have not yet laid any charges, as the investigation continues.
“We have gone to the media all across the country in order to warn people about crowd funding campaigns like GoFundMe,” Roxanne said. “I was hoping it would put some pressure on them to refund people who donated. Unfortunately, almost all of the money is still missing.”
Roxanne said some people who donated to Roger’s family have had their money refunded from GoFundMe, and that others with fraud protection have done so through their credit card companies.
Roger’s death occurred in the early-morning hours of July 28 on a country road between London and Norwich, Ont., when his vehicle entered the ditch, struck a tree and flipped upside down.
“Roger was one of the good guys,” said Purcell, “the guy who called in to dispatch on time, the guy who had a snapshot photo of his wife and two young boys taped to the inside of the metal clipboard logbook case, the guy who everybody liked to be around.”
Originally from Sudbury, Ont., Roger was living in the London area at the time of his death, and Purcell said he was quite involved in the oil rig business in Western Canada.
Roxanne has set up an email account for those who would like to donate by electronic fund transfer to her brother’s family (email@example.com). People can also make a donation at any TD Bank.
Purcell hopes that this incident does not lead to mistrust within the ‘brotherhood of drivers.’
“I think we need a story out there that says, ‘Hey, drivers, protect each other, help each other,’” she said. “I don’t want drivers to be afraid of one another, to be afraid to make friends, to be afraid to help each other.”
A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media industry as an editor, reporter and now as editor of Truck West. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.
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