Residents of two small towns in Newfoundland and Labrador, Badger and Glovertown, are in deep mourning following the tragic loss of two men in a deadly vehicle accident that occurred in Alberta during the early hours of Wednesday morning.
A third Newfoundland community, Summerford, is anxiously awaiting updates on the condition of another man that was in the same taxi van that was involved in the two-vehicle collision.
One of the victims was Harold May Jr., 37, of Badger, a town of just under 900 residents in central Newfoundland.
May was a husband and father of two young children, and worked as a heavy equipment operator.
The other victim Shawn Briffett, also 37, was a resident of Glovertown, a town of just over 2,100 on the province’s northeast coast.
Briffett has a six-year-old daughter.
Both victims worked at the Snap Lake diamond mine, a remote fly-in/fly-out operation in the Northwest Territories.
Like thousands of people from Newfoundland and Labrador, they worked turnaround shifts, travelling back and forth to western Canada.
They were killed when the taxi van they were riding in collided with a pickup truck in Leduc, Alta. They were starting their journey home after completing a shift.
It’s believed the taxi was taking the men between airports when the crash occurred.
‘He will make it,’ mother says
The third passenger, Mark Anstey, 35, is a resident of the Notre Dame Bay community of Summerford.
He survived the crash, but remains in hospital recovering from multiple injuries, said his mother, Summerford town clerk Vicky Anstey.
Mark Anstey, who is married and has two young children, had completed just his second turnaround at Snap Lake.
His wife and sister are travelling to Alberta, Vicky Anstey told CBC News Thursday.
“He will make it,” Vicky said of her son, adding that he suffered injuries to his pelvis, arm, face and head.
Mark was ejected from the taxi, and can’t remember anything before waking up in the snow, said his mother.
Town feeling the sting, mayor says
Badger Mayor Mike Patey described May as a “very nice man” who served his community as a volunteer firefighter.
“He will be missed in our community, no doubt,” said Patey.
The mayor said the entire town is feeling the loss, and doing what they can to support May’s young family.
“Everybody got their family in their thoughts and their prayers right now,” he said.
May was also an exceptional athlete, and excelled in both hockey and softball.
In Glovertown, meanwhile, news of the tragedy hit in the midst of the town’s annual celebration of winter.
Disbelief at first
Mayor Doug Churchill said people began finding out about the accident during a dinner theatre attended by about 200 residents.
He said there was general disbelief at first, but now the tragedy is starting to set in.
“This is going to put a damper on a lot of peoples’ feelings and emotions,” he said.
Churchill is a retired teacher, and the victim was a student of his who has worked in Alberta for about a decade.
“Everybody’s pretty broken-hearted today,” he said.
Churchill estimates that about 100 residents of Glovertown work in Alberta.
“The situation itself is not ideal. The money is good, but the time away from family is terrible. But it’s a way of making a living,” said Churchill.
Shawn Briffett’s uncle, Louis Briffett, said the family is in shock over the loss.
Louis said his nephew was a hard worker and was well liked. He was an avid salmon angler and hunter, and at six feet, seven inches tall, had quite a presence about him.
RCMP say the crash happened around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The 38-year-old taxi driver, meanwhile, is in hospital with critical injuries.
The truck driver was not hurt, and his 25-year-old passenger received only minor injuries.