Bradley Jeffrey Prytula

A thrill-seeker, he’d grown up with a new job; his parents bought him a dirt bike to recognize his new-found maturity

Bradley Jeffrey Prytula

Illustration by Team Macho

Bradly Prytula was born in Winnipeg on July 7, 1994, the second of two boys born to Daryl and Audry. The Prytulas live near Anola, a rural community just east of Winnipeg, where Daryl runs a welding shop named for his sons—Brody and Bradly’s Auto Body and Welding—and Audry is a caretaker with the Sunrise School Division. Their house, as Audry puts it, is “out in the middle of nowhere.” That’s the way Bradly loved it.

When he was a little boy, “you couldn’t tell him what to do,” says Daryl. “You’d tell him to turn right and he’d turn left.” Daryl would often pull Bradly and his older brother Brody on GT Sno Racers—sleds with steering wheels—behind his snowmobile. Bradly was always “the cocky one,” Daryl remembers, often playfully bumping into his big brother as they slid across the snow.

The family often visited Star Lake, Man., where Bradly’s grandfather has a cabin. It was there that Bradly started developing his reputation as a daredevil. “He was like Evel Knievel,” says Daryl. Bradly loved waterskiing, wakeboarding, tubing and, especially, dirt biking. “Nobody could ride a bike better than him,” says Daryl. “Bradly had a knack for it.” One winter, Daryl and Audry lit a big bonfire on the shore of the lake while their two sons roared across the thick prairie ice on the family’s two new snowmobiles. “He was active and happy. And he loved being outside,” says Audry.

When Bradly was 14, he went for a snowmobile ride with Daryl and Brody down the frozen creek behind their house. Brody and Daryl rode in the front, while Bradly, as usual, was riding behind them on his own. On the way home, the ice broke beneath Brody and Daryl. They plunged into the creek’s frigid waters. But Bradly was there, and quickly helped pull his older brother back onto the ice. Then he tied a rope to his dad’s half-submerged snowmobile, and towed it out of the water with his own machine. Daryl was dragged out along with it. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Bradly,” says Daryl. “He’d give his heart. He’d give anything. He was just a good kid.”

Last fall, Bradly dropped out of school at the Springfield Collegiate Institute in nearby Oakbank. “School never worked with him. He never understood it,” says Daryl. But his parents wanted him to graduate. So he applied for a carpentry apprenticeship that would allow him to work while he picked up the credits he needed to get his high school diploma. In the meantime, Bradly landed a job building houses with a construction company. The job was tailor-made for Bradly, whose parents bought him his own set of tools after his co-workers grew tired of lending him their hammers and nail guns. “He loved it, and he knew what he was doing,” says Daryl. “Everything was looking up for him.”

Every morning at 5 a.m., Bradly and his dad would drive to work together. During their daily rides, Daryl started to notice a change in Bradly. The kid who was fiercely independent began to take the things his dad said as fatherly advice rather than as orders he was obliged to follow. “He was turning into a man,” says Daryl. “The eye contact he and I had in the last month, something was just there. Every time I dropped him off, he said: ‘Dad, thanks for the ride. I love you.’ ” In July, to recognize how well he was doing, Daryl and Audry bought him a brand new dirt bike for his birthday: a blue and white YZ 250 Yamaha.

On July 17, just days after the acceptance letter for his carpentry apprenticeship arrived at the house, Bradly sped off on his new bike to meet up with some friends. After a short while, Steven Shepit, one of Bradly’s closest friends, drove off into the night. Bradly was concerned about Steven—the two had been tight for years—so he decided to follow.

It was dark on the rural Manitoba gravel road, not long before midnight. Steven’s bike was kicking up clouds of dust, making it difficult for Bradly to see as he sped after his friend. Steven, for whatever reason, decided to turn around and head back. But Bradly didn’t know it. Moments later, the two friends collided in the dust and darkness.

Bradly’s big brother Brody rushed out to the scene. Brody cradled his brother in his arms until help arrived. Steven remains in intensive care, but Bradly was pronounced dead soon afterwards. He was 17.

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