Dmitri Tertyshny

The National Hockey League was rocked with a tragic death of one of its youngest and more promising on July 23rd 1999. On that Friday night 22-year-old Philadelphia Flyers rookie defenseman Dmitri Tertyshny was killed in a boating accident in Kelowna, British Columbia.

According to Staff Sgt. Phillip Boissonneault of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Tertyshny was kneeling on a seat in the bow of a 17-foot powerboat and was thrown from the craft when it hit a wave. The boat ran over Tertyshny, its propeller severing his carotid artery and jugular vein. The official autopsy report said that the cause of death was a massive loss of blood.

Tertyshny was one of four passengers on the boat, on Okanagan Lake in Kelowna, British Columbia. Accompanying him were two minor league prospects defenseman Mihail Chernov and forward Francis Belanger, who drove the boat. A local woman, Michelle Monroe, was also on the boat. The players had been in Kelowna attending a power skating school.

The accident occurred at 7:25 p.m., Boissonneault said, and the boat returned to shore and an emergency call was received at 7:32. Within three minutes, emergency personnel were on the scene and Tertyshny was taken to Kelowna General Hospital. Officials said it appeared that Tertyshny actually died around 7:30, while still on the boat.

Boissoneault said that although there were indications that alcohol had been consumed on the boat, it was not a factor.

"We conducted our investigation to determine if the operator of the boat, Belanger, was impaired because of alcohol, and our investigation determined he was not legally impaired," Boissonneault said.

"I always thought he'd be with us for a long time," said Flyers general manager Bob Clarke. "You never expect these kind of things. It's such a shocking thing. An afternoon in a rental boat turns into tragedy. Tertyshny was a really nice, likable kid," Clarke said. "He always had a smile on his face. You'd ask him, 'How's your English?' and he'd always say the same thing: 'It's coming, it's coming.'

"A freak accident," head coach Roger Neilson said. "I phoned Rammer [assistant coach Craig Ramsay], who spent a lot of time working with him, and he's devastated. Such a nice, cooperative kid. We felt he was really developing as a player and would have continued to develop."

It was Neilson who was largely responsible for seeing that "Tree" played in the NHL last season. Many felt he wasn't ready for the NHL. Despite numerous rookie give-aways and mistakes, Neilson really liked Tertyshny's skating and quickness.

"It's a shock," said team captain Eric Lindros. "Here you have a young player come over here and get adjusted. He transforms himself into a gamer. . . . [He was] just a terrific person. Kind of quiet in the dressing room, but he had a terrific sense of humour."

"Such a nice, young guy with a bright future," defensive partner Chris Therien said. "He was a good, young man. It's a real tragedy."

Dmitri is survived by his wife Pauline, who was 4 months pregnant at the time of his death.

Dmitri isn't the first Philly Flyer to die so young. The franchise has a shockingly high occurrence of such tragedies:

Barry Ashbee: The defenseman had his career cut short during the Stanley Cup semifinals against the New York Rangers in 1974 when he was hit in the right eye by a slap shot. The Flyers went on to win the first of their consecutive championships that year. Ashbee became an assistant coach for the team before being diagnosed with leukemia in April 1977. He died a month later, at 37.

Pelle Lindbergh: The season after winning the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie in the league, Lindbergh, at the age of 26, crashed his $117,000 Porsche into a cement wall shortly after 5:30 a.m. in Somerdale, N.J., on Nov. 10, 1985. The accident caused serious injury to his spinal cord and brain stem and left the goalie brain-dead. Lindbergh's blood-alcohol at the time of the crash was 0.17, well above the legal limit.

Kathy Kerr: The wife of Flyers winger Tim Kerr died on Oct. 16, 1990 at Pennsylvania Hospital from complications of childbirth. She had given birth to a daughter, Kimberly, 10 days earlier, and remained in the hospital because of a pelvic infection.

Yanick Dupre: Leukemia also felled the 24-year-old defenseman, who was diagnosed with the disease in April 1996. Before the year was over, the leukemia was in remission and Dupre hoped to return to play with the team. The leukemia returned in May '97, just two weeks before Dupre was scheduled to visit the Flyers during their playoff run. He died in a Montreal hospital on Aug. 16, 1997.

The Flyers family also suffered two other deaths just days before Tertyshny's freak accident. Long time play by play announcer Gene Hart and former player Cowboy Flett also passed away in July 1999.


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