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Nanaimo bird expert killed in crash

A motor vehicle accident has claimed the life of a man well-known in Nanaimo's bird watching community.

Ryan Cathers, 21, organizer of the annual Nanaimo Christmas Bird Count, died in a collision near Westlock, Alta., on the weekend.

Police said Cathers died Saturday at about 4:30 p.m. when the northbound vehicle in which he was collided head-on with a southbound semi tractor-trailer rig on Highway 44 about one kilometre south of Westlock.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation by Westlock RCMP.

His cousin, Chris Cathers, said Ryan Cathers had recently graduated from Vancouver Island University and had taken a job with a wild bird research organization in Alberta.

Chris Cathers described his cousin as caring, compassionate and the go-to person for birding in Nanaimo.

"The world needed more people like him," Chris Cathers said.

Colin Bartlett, owner of the Nanaimo Backyard Wildbird and Nature Store, said Ryan Cathers worked at the store for three years prior to leaving for Alberta and described his death as tragic.

"He was just up there, what, two weeks," Bartlett said. "It was his first time away from home and it was all new to him. He was a little homesick, but he was having fun."

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