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Lone survivor of Alberta shooting is 'focused on getting better'

A tarp is placed over a Ford SUV on an Alberta highway after three of its occupants were shot and killed on Dec. 15. Shayna Conway, the driver, is in hospital recovering from her wounds.

chris bolin The Globe and Mail

Shayna Conway is making a remarkable recovery after being shot three times just two weeks ago by a heavily armed man on a darkened Alberta highway.

Her breathing tube has been removed, which allows the 21-year-old woman to speak with her family and friends rather than communicating by written notes. She has been moved from intensive care at Calgary's Foothills Hospital to a private room, thereby allowing loved ones to be with her overnight. And on Wednesday, the Prince Edward Island native, who for a time was feared partly paralyzed on her left side, took her first steps on her own.

"For the most part, she's being very positive and focused on getting better," said Rob Dale, a friend who has taken on the job of family spokesman. "She did admit there are some difficult moments, of course, as she thinks back on things."

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Ms. Conway is the sole survivor of an early-morning murder-suicide that left four young people dead and little explanation for why 21-year-old Derek Jensen carried out the roadside massacre.

According to police, just after 3 a.m. on Dec. 15 on Highway 2 outside of Claresholm, Alta., Mr. Jensen used his Pontiac Sunfire to ram the Ford Escape that Ms. Conway was driving.

Ms. Conway, who was working and studying in Lethbridge, was bound for the Calgary airport to drop off friends who were headed home for the holidays. When Ms. Conway got out of the vehicle to see what happened, Mr. Jensen shot her with a Heckler & Koch 9 mm handgun.

He then turned his gun on the SUV's occupants, killing his ex-girlfriend, 21-year-old Tabitha Stepple, where she sat. Also left dead were Ms. Conway's boyfriend, Tanner Craswell, 22, and Mitch MacLean, 20. Both young men hailed from PEI and were promising baseball players with the Lethbridge Bulls.

Mr. Jensen, who had two other guns in his car, then shot himself.

Mr. Dale, a pastor with the Bikers' Church in Ottawa, has been in constant contact with Ms. Conway's father, Scott, who is a board member at the church, and spoke with the young woman on Christmas Day.

"Right now she's focused on herself and getting stronger," Mr. Dale said. "She's very overwhelmed by all the support and the cards and e-mails and Facebook messages. She's kind of amazed that here's this young kid from a small town on the Island and yet generating so many well-wishes from strangers across the country. That's been real positive for her."

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Strangers in Calgary have opened their hearts to the family, who have flown in from Ottawa and PEI. To help keep spirits high and costs down, locals have donated accommodations, a vehicle and food.

Mr. Dale said doctors initially considered Ms. Conway's survival a miracle, and progress has been steady, but nobody is yet predicting a discharge date. She has already endured one major surgery, but still has bullet fragments lodged in her body, which may or may not be removed.

For now, Ms. Conway is focused on making it to a memorial service in Lethbridge being planned by the baseball team for some time next month.

"On the 22nd she still had a breathing tube, and to be at a place now where they're taking her down to the gym for physio, it shows just how remarkably strong she is," Mr. Dale said. "With this kid, anything's possible."

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About the Author
Dawn Walton

Dawn Walton has been based in Calgary for The Globe and Mail since 2000. Before leaving Toronto to head West, she won a National Newspaper Award and was twice nominated for the Michener Award for her work with the Report on Business. More

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