Residents of a city in western Manitoba sought solace at church services Sunday — lighting candles, wiping away tears and offering prayers —as they mourned 15 community members who died in a bus crash that also left 10 gravely injured.
Father Brent Kuzyk of St. George’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Dauphin dedicated part of his liturgy to the victims of Thursday’s crash.
A minibus was carrying a group of seniors from the community and surrounding area to a casino when it went into the path of an oncoming semi-trailer truck near the town of Carberry, some 190 kilometres away.
Helen Kufley, 88, was among those on the bus who died, her son said in a message on the weekend. No names have officially been released.
“It’s a tragedy everyone must deal with together,” Kuzyk said Sunday.
“We shall meet the sadness, meet the devastation, meet the horror head-on and meet the questioning head-on, because there is no way to get around it. There is … no way to deny it. There is no way to run from it.”
Churchgoers lit candles and sang hymns. Some dabbed their eyes with tissues. Many knew the victims, as some were members of the church.
Those who died will live forever in people’s memories and in spirit, said Kuzyk.
“Many have fallen asleep from this life, they are not gone.”
A board member at St. George’s Place, a retirement home where three victims lived, stood during the service and offered his condolences.
Another parishioner, Rona Kamfoly, said after the service that one of the victims was a distant relative and she knew others from attending local dances.
“One of the ladies who is gone, she was at the dance on Monday,” Kamfoly said. “I don’t know if it’s intuition or whatever, but I kept looking at her.
“Sometimes you think about a person, and then they’re gone.”
Those who died will be greatly missed, she added. “Time is going to heal — that’s how I look at it.”
Doris Dunfield, another church member, said she believes prayers are the answer.
“We’re a small community. Everybody pretty well knows everybody,” she said. “All we need to do now is support the families, pray for them, stick together and do what we can to help and be there for them.”
The church was among many places of worship in the city of 8,600 that addressed the tragedy during their regular Sunday services.
Deacon Frances Stewart of St. Paul’s Anglican Church said before her service that she planned to offer a moment of silence for those who died.
It’s a time to offer comfort and be compassionate as people grieve, she said.
“As Christians, we have this wonderful hope, this wonderful promise of the life to come. But at this stage, the important thing is to just get through the first few days and then to be there for the months and years to come.”
RCMP continued to investigate the crash. Mounties have said the truck was travelling east on the Trans-Canada Highway when the southbound bus crossed at an intersection at Highway 5.
Police say dashcam footage from the truck shows it had the right-of-way.
As of Friday, investigators had not yet spoken with the bus driver, who remained in hospital along with the nine other survivors. Shared Health said in a statement Sunday that six remained in critical care.
Kuzyk said he spent the last few days praying with people at seniors complexes where some of the victims lived.
“Simply being able to verbalize whatever they’re feeling always helps,” he said. “Since it’s such a small community, everyone knew someone on that bus or even had relatives on the bus.”
Coming together, praying for those who died, then burying them is part of the healing process, he said.
“When we begin to heal, we gain strength, we begin to understand and then we get to prepare our lives for the next step.”