Manitoba city discusses options, possible memorial to honour 15 killed in bus crash

Manitoba city discusses options, possible memorial to honour 15 killed in bus crash
Flags outside Dauphin city hall fly at half mast on Friday June 16, 2023. The western Manitoba community is grappling with how to honour the lives lost in a fiery bus crash that killed 15 seniors last week.

A western Manitoba community is grappling with how to honour 15 seniors killed in a fiery bus crash last week.

Dauphin city council held an in-camera meeting Monday to discuss how it should respond to the collective grief and whether there should be a public memorial or vigil.

Dauphin’s ministerial association was also meeting Tuesday on the issue, but Mayor David Bosiak said a decision may not come immediately.

Some people outside the community’s Co-op grocery store said a vigil should not be rushed and some families will want time to grieve privately.

A minibus was carrying the group of seniors from Dauphin and the surrounding area to a casino Thursday when it went into the path of an oncoming semi-trailer truck near the town of Carberry.

Health officials said Monday that ten others on the bus, including the driver, remain in hospital. Five were in critical condition.

The names of those killed have not been officially released.

On the southwest edge of the city, a local funeral home called everyone into work as it prepares for weeks of grief.

Sneath-Strilchuk Funeral Services is one of two funeral homes in Dauphin. Its offices sit within eyesight of a local graveyard.

Having to arrange for so many funerals all at once is not common for the funeral home in the city of about 8,000 people, said owner Joe Coffey.

The staff knew those who were on the bus, he said. They saw them at church and at funerals. Some are related to the victims.

“It’s an intimate connection,” Coffey said.

When word of the collision spread, he said, staff stepped up to offer their time. Two cancelled their vacation plans.

Funeral directors from across the province and the country also reached out to offer their help, he said.

While Coffey isn’t worried about capacity at the funeral home, he said it will be important to work over the coming days and weeks to make sure that the services don’t overlap.

Many people in the community will want to go to multiple funerals.

The real challenge will come with the waves of grief, he said.

“It’s the emotional connection to the people and the tragedy itself, the event, which plays on the staff, the community and the families that we are dealing with.”

The tragedy has brought a dark shadow, but Coffey said having funerals, a time and place to mourn, will help the city to find healing.

Ernie Sirski, reeve for the Rural Municipality of Dauphin, said the trauma is ongoing and a lot of people are still trying to digest what happened.

“We are pulling together as a community and that’s the important part,” Sirski said.

“If there’s a glory to this, it’s that the community is pulling together and making sure if anybody needs any help … we are there for them.”

Kelly Gerladine Malone, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 20, 2023.

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