A competitive cyclist who died after being hit by a vehicle while training in New Brunswick was a positive, vibrant woman who was poised to go professional next year, her friends said.
Ellen Watters, 28, was badly injured in a Dec. 23 crash outside Sussex, N.B., and her death announced Wednesday.
"She was always a very happy, smiling, positive person. She always had 10 times the energy of anyone else," said Vince Caceres, owner of the Ottawa-based cycling team she was a part of. "She loved to laugh. She always had an idea — a crazy thing to do. She really gave a vibrancy to the team. She always knew what to do to cheer people up."
The RCMP say Watters was riding around 2:30 p.m. Friday when she was struck by a vehicle travelling in the same direction in Lower Cove. A statement from Watters' family posted on the Cycling Canada website said she no longer had any brain function after the collision.
The family said they want to see improved safety conditions for cyclists on roadways.
"We would ask everyone to spread awareness of the necessity of cyclist advocacy, and to contact their local politicians to help get changes made," they said in the statement.
Caceres urged New Brunswick to enact a one-metre rule for motorists, which is already legislated in other provinces including Nova Scotia and Ontario.
"There has to be a readdressing of the laws governing safety for cyclists, because I think it's falling behind the times," he said.
"I think Ellen would want something like that, because she would hate to think that there is a young athlete out there that doesn't want to pursue their sport because of the fear of safety."
Under Ontario's law, motorists are required to keep a distance of one metre from cyclists, or receive a $110 fine and two demerit points.
Watters had been rising up the ranks since joining the Ottawa-based The Cyclery Racing Program in 2014.
Caceres, who owns The Cyclery, said Watters shared a special bond with the women on her team.
"This wasn't just a handful of girls who together do their races and go home. These girls breathed each other. It's hit them really hard," said Caceres in a phone interview Wednesday.
Earlier this year, Watters won the Tour of the Battenkill and Tour of Somerville in the U.S., and won bronze in the criterium at the Canadian Road Championships.
She had signed with the U.S.-based Colavita-Bianchi team, and was to compete professionally next year, Cycling Canada said. She was also invited to be a part-time member of the Canadian women's development program.
A GoFundMe page was set up to support her family, and more than $16,000 had been raised by late Wednesday afternoon.
Many people were sharing their condolences on social media.
Chris Foster, executive director of the cycling organization Velo NB, said the cycling community is in shock.
"She was well-respected in the community," said Foster in a phone interview Wednesday. "She was able to touch so many people in positive ways, so a lot of people are mourning at this time. It's a great loss."
Her family said Watters, a kinesiology graduate originally from Apohaqui, N.B., was an "awesome force."
"Everyone who knew Ellen was better off for it," the statement said. "She shared joy with everyone she knew, and took joy in sharing her love and positivity around her."
Her family noted Watters is a candidate for organ donations, and said they will not be holding a service until later, "when we have had a chance to process this tragedy."