Live by the paint, die by the paint

The death of three graffiti artists is widely affecting the city

By Maya Malkin

Dylan Ford, 17, Ricardo Conesa, 18, and Mitchell Bracken-Guenet,17, were spray painting graffiti in the Turcot yards when they were struck and killed by a VIA passenger train on Sunday, Oct. 31, at 3 a.m.

The train, which was supposed to come in at 12 a.m., had been delayed because of another incident outside Toronto, where someone was hit by a commuter train earlier that day.

“We [graffiti artists] put ourselves in risky situations but it’s rare that someone dies,” Gone, a well-known Montreal graffiti vandal and former Dawson student, said. “Every kid wants a rush of adrenaline.”

Two of the victims died at the scene and the third passed away in hospital. The boys were accompanied by two other friends, who were treated in emergency for shock, along with the engineer of the train that hit the boys.

Ford, who tagged “Jays Funk,” can be found all over the city, mostly in NDG. Conesa, who tagged “Rico,” does not seem to have much work posted, and Bracken-Guenet, who tagged “Abers,” can be found in certain areas, but is not widely broadcasted.

The graffiti community is in shock. “The beauty of graffiti in a sense is that after seeing someone’s name up so often you end up feeling like you know them, and these are the first people who passed away that I ‘knew,’” Clast SPVM, a Montreal graffiti artist and Dawson student, said. “I can relate to them because my friends and I have all painted at Turcot, it’s a really sad wakeup call for us to be way more vigilant on the tracks.”

“Because the [graffiti] community is so small, when someone dies it hits close to home because it’s a popular location, it’s all in a matter of time and place, we’re all thinking, that could’ve been me, I was thinking of hitting that spot,” Gone said.

There are people of all ages around Montreal who are mourning. “Last week when I was leaving school, I didn’t say bye to him, and now he’s never coming back,” Mathilda Carney, a schoolmate of victim Dylan Ford, said in tears.

“I was at a Halloween party with Ricardo on Saturday night, I was with him as he got in his car to go down to Turcot. I wish I would have stopped him. He was such an amazing friend. I can’t believe he’s gone,” Shayne Pierce Loughren, a close friend of Ricardo Conesa, explained.

Jade Wilde, a Dawson night school student, was on the phone with Ford 20 minutes before the accident. “Dylan always would say things like “just another day” and ” life is short so do what you want,” I really believe he lived up to those statements, always living life day by day. We all miss him so much. I wish he heard the train.”

“I don’t believe in perfection, but Mitch was pretty close to it. He was good at everything and never hurt anybody. I was lucky enough to have been his best friend, and I am so thankful for that. I miss him so much,” Jessica Cowles-Rousseau, best friend of Mitchell Bracken-Guenet, said.

Facebook is covered with news from the tragic event. Many close friends of the victims are changing their profile pictures to photos of the deceased boys or of their art. There are groups commemorating all three of their lives with countless posts about how much they were loved and how much they will be missed. There is also a group called “Tattoos for Ricardo and Mitch,” dedicated to friends who want to get inked to remember the deaths of their close friends who passed away.

“Painting so much at such a young age, you wonder what he could’ve accomplished in his life. Imagine if the kid was still alive, where he would’ve gone, he had a lot of heart,” Gone said.

“I can’t imagine Ricardo becoming an old man and withering away. Ricardo was way too ballsy for that. He went out with a bang. It’s tragic and I miss him, but that’s the way you’ve got to look at it. He died doing what he loved,” Loughren said.

“He lived by the paint, and he died by the paint,” Joseph Elgraby, a close friend of Ford said.

There was a candle light vigil held to raise money for the scholarship that was created in Ford’s name, it’s for students who excel in art. There will be a funeral held for Bracken-Guenet on Nov. 6, and Conesa’s remains (he is originally from Spain), had to be retrieved by his parents who had to fly in to Montreal.

“These boys passed so young but at least they’d found their passion and they left doing what they loved. Even though they’re gone, their names will stay up in the city and it’s like seeing a breath of life each time you pass one of their tags,” Clast SPVM said. “Jays, Aber and Ricardo, you won’t be forgotten and we’ll make sure of that. Rest in Painter’s Paradise brothers.”


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