Trip cut short after Manitoba students witness shooting in Dominican Republic
Published Saturday, February 1, 2014 6:35PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 1, 2014 11:18PM EST
A group of Manitoba high school students has returned early from a trip to the Dominican Republic, after a Canadian man living on the island nation was shot during a violent break-in at a compound where the teens were staying.
Students from Ecole regionale Saint-Jean Baptiste and Ecole Pointe-des-Chenes were on a week-long humanitarian trip to help an orphanage in Puerto Plata.
Early Friday, two suspects broke into the compound where the francophone students were staying and shot the compound's owner nine times, according to media reports in the Dominican Republic.
The owner, identified by local media as 64-year-old Les Lehmann, was reportedly trying to fend off the intruders when he was shot. He is now in critical condition.
A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Canada confirmed that a Canadian was injured in the Dominican Republic, but did not release any details about the incident, citing privacy concerns.
Alain Laberge, the superintendent of the Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine, said some of the students witnessed the shooting in-person.
"Not the whole group saw what happened, but they kind of witnessed it through noise and sound. So they didn't leave their room, but unfortunately four or five of our students were in the room when this happened," Laberge told CTV Winnipeg.
Laberge said the 18 students, along with eight chaperones and teachers, landed in Winnipeg early Saturday morning, where they were reunited with their parents.
"Tears, happiness, it was a mix of both," he said of the emotional reunion.
The Manitoba school division will offer grief counsellors and psychologists to the students, parents and teachers that were affected.
Canadian consular officials in the Dominican Republic are working with local authorities to gather more information about the shooting and provide consular assistance, a spokesperson told CTV Winnipeg in an email.
There is no travel advisory in effect for Canadians travelling to the Dominican Republic, but Foreign Affairs recommends travellers there exercise “a high degree of caution” due to the high crime rate.
With files from CTV Winnipeg