By Mark Hodgins 
BELLEVILLE – The world changed in an instant for Loyalist College student Evan Sinclair last Friday. The big brother who had once protected him from school bullies and tried to get him to drink Jim Beam had been killed in an accident at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa. Kyle Sinclair was 27 years old.
Evan Sinclair, a 25-year-old second-year welding student, got the message at his Belleville home late in the afternoon, as he was playing with his 15-month-old son, Jaxon.
“My dad had messaged me, just texted, probably around 4 on Friday, asking for my mom’s number,” Evan told QNet News this week, noting that his parents aren’t together anymore. “I gave it to him, just didn’t really think anything (of it). Then I asked, ‘Why? What’s up?’ – because he’s never really asked for it before. He just said, ‘Kyle’s hurt. Don’t know any more details.’ ” A little while later, his mom texted him, saying a woman from the military had contacted her and told her she should “get up there” – Ottawa Civic Hospital – because Kyle was in critical condition. Evan knew he had to go to Ottawa too.
Kyle Sinclair, who had the rank of craftman in the Canadian Forces, was a mechanic stationed at CFB Petawawa. The accident happened when he was working on a military vehicle. The Canadian Forces have said very little, calling what happened to Kyle a “very rare freak accident.”
When his brother arrived at the hospital, Kyle was in a coma in the intensive-care unit. His hands still bore the signs of the work he had been doing. “I was holding his right hand and he had those black hands, mechanic hands,” said Evan. “My dad came over and put the blanket over (his hand) – I guess my sister didn’t like the black on his hands. I went and sat down a bit – you know, just kind of looking at everyone. I just wanted to be touching him, like holding his hands. I held his hand for about an hour and a half before he …” Evan paused, and took a breath. “Before he passed.”
Kyle died at 11:45 p.m., having never woken from the coma. His whole family – including younger brother Graeme, 16, and sister Roslin, 18 – was there.
What exactly happened to Kyle Sinclair is still unclear, according to Evan. “I’ve heard different things that different people said (about) what he was doing – an oil change or working on carburetor or something like that. I guess the seat (of the vehicle) had malfunctioned and ejected, throwing him to the top of the tank, and he hit the top of his head. But he was in no pain, instantly in a coma.”
The military told the Sinclair family that Kyle had been found alone. They said they didn’t know exactly how long it had been from the time of the accident to when he was found.
“It’s just not something you ever expect,” Evan said quietly of the ordeal. “In the military you know it’s dangerous and all that, but it’s not – you think, ‘He’s just in Petawawa’ or something.”
Growing up, Kyle had never dreamed of being in the military, said Evan. Before he joined, he had his own contracting business. Evan called Kyle a jack of all trades; he was a master in drywall, plumbing and flooring, he said. To Evan and his family, Kyle’s decision to join the armed forces was out of the blue.
“Two years ago is when he kind of had enough” with contracting, Evan said. “He said it was hurting his back and stuff, and just not enough pay, I guess, being self employed. So he just kind of did it on a whim.”
Kyle didn’t continue with those trades once he was in the military: “He became a heavy-vehicle technician and he hadn’t done any sort of automotive before – but he just wanted the new challenge, I guess. And he was doing pretty well at it.”
The boys were very close, even for brothers. They grew up in Whitby, Ont., going to elementary school together at Leslie MacFarlane Public School.
Kyle, ever the big brother, was always there to stick up for Evan. “I forget the kids’ names, but there were two brothers that used to pick on me when I was in Grade 1 or 2, and (Kyle) had none of it. He went to the older brother, who was in Grade 4 or 5, so either Kyle’s age or a year older, and just said, ‘You don’t touch my f—-g brother,’ or however he said it. I remember watching him do it. And I never got hassled by them again,” Evan said with a smile.
That trend continued in high school as the boys attended Anderson Collegiate and Vocational Institute, also in Whitby. Evan recalls his brother hanging out in a corridor at the back of the school, making sure no one ever gave his little brother trouble.
After the two finished high school they drifted a little, with Evan moving away from Whitby and Kyle keeping busy with his company. That didn’t last, though; Evan said he and Kyle were closer in the last few years than ever before.
His brother had developed a taste for Jim Beam bourbon. Kyle used to tell Evan to take a shot: “It’ll put hair on your chest,” he claimed.
Evan said he would counter, “Man, I don’t want hair on my chest!”
“Fine, then,” Kyle would quip, bringing the shot to his mouth. “More for me!”
Those times of hanging out together over a few drinks were some of Evan’s favourites. “You know how you get lovey when you get drinking?” Those were the best, when we were like that, just giving hugs and just saying what you feel like – you don’t even care. Those were awesome. And (we had) plenty of those times in the past few years. Those are memories that you always have.”
As Kyle lay in the hospital Friday night, Evan spoke to him a little.
“He was unconscious, but I did get to say everything I wanted to say to him. Just how proud I was of him for joining the army.”
Kyle was the kind of guy everyone should strive to be, Evan said. “He was awesome. He was like my dad, which could be good or could not be,” he laughed. He was “just the type of guy you want as a father or brother or friend, because he cares. There’s so many times people … would give him a call and he’d just drop what he’s doing because they’ve got an issue or something. He’s just always there … You could always call him.”
It still doesn’t feel like his brother is gone, he said. “It’s very surreal. I don’t think it’s fully sunk in. The first couple (of) days it’s like it can’t be real; I was just talking to him, you know? Just three days before, so on the Wednesday, he sent me the newest pictures that he had … that’s what he’d do, just send me pictures and updates and stuff like that.”
Evan knows this holiday season will be a trying one for him and his family. He and Kyle always spent Christmas Eve at their mom’s house and headed to their dad’s on Christmas Day. This year, everything has changed.
“It’ll be rough, under the tree. And (Kyle’s) stocking, not having it filled or whatever – it’s not going to be the same. Nothing will be.”
The family is there for one another, though, and will get through this together, he said.
One of the hardest parts of all of this for Evan Sinclair concerns his son, Jaxon – Kyle’s nephew. “The thing that sucks for me is he never got to see my son walk or anything like that. But the way I think of it now is that now, he’ll get to see him do everything.”
What helps is so many people showing they care, he said. That includes Kyle’s friends at Petawawa, who have messaged Evan in the days following the tragedy. “It’s nice to see that he’s getting so much love … which does make it better,” he said, smiling. “It’s just the fact that everybody just appreciates him. It’s heart-warming.”
The military funeral took place Wednesday at CFB Petawawa. The family was to get a tour of where Kyle worked and lived, and a chance to collect his belongings. A family funeral will take place on Saturday in Whitby.