Bull riding teen died doing what he loved
Friends and coaches say Makwala Derickson-Hall, who died after being trampled by a rodeo bull, was a driven young man and a fearless competitor.
The 18-year-old Okanagan First Nations member graduated last month from West Kelowna's Mt. Boucherie Secondary School, and classmates believed he was set to conquer the dangerous world of bull riding. He was less than two weeks away from competing in the National High School Finals Rodeo in Wyoming.
On Friday night, he was bucked off his bull at the Canoe Mountain Rodeo in Valemount, B.C., and stomped on before he could escape the ring. He was rushed to a local medical facility, but died of his injuries shortly after.
"He knew what dangers he was getting into, but he loved doing it," friend Zac Kingswood said. "He went out doing something he loved."
When he wasn't competing in rodeos, Derickson-Hall played football and rugby. His coach Peter Bricker called him a role model who inspired his team mates, and "one of the great guys to coach."
Fellow bull rider Chad Eneas remembers him for his courage. Eneas helped Derickson-Hall prepare for the bull ride that claimed his life, and was the last one to speak to him before he was wounded.
"As I finished pulling up his rope, I kind of slapped him on his back and said, ‘Can you handle this?' He looked back and he looked at me and he says, ‘I can handle this.' And that was his last words."
His death marks the second tragedy in a month for students from Mt. Boucherie, after the murder of 16-year-old Ashlee Hyatt at a house party in June. "That's two really close friends now that I've lost in one year," Kingswood said. "I just can't get over that."
The tight-knit rodeo community is also reeling. Professional steer wrestler Shawn Chevalier says both his high-school aged daughters knew Derickson-Hall. "If you don't know him personally, you'll know somebody he knows," he said.
Chevalier, who started his career as a bull rider, denies that the unforgiving sport is too dangerous for teenagers. "You get motocross guys killed, racecar guys killed. It's a sport and it's a dangerous sport," he said. "It's young guys that have to ride them, old guys are too broke up."
Westbank Band Councillor Mike De Guevara mourned the loss of such a gifted young man, but hopes Derickson-Hall will continue to be a role model even now that he's gone.
"He was an inspiration to his family, to his mother, to his father, to the nation, to the high school," De Guevara said. "He was always full of piss and vinegar, saying, "You know what? There's no limits. There's no limits to what I can do.'"
With files from CTV British Columbia's Kent Molgat and Shannon Paterson