Updated: Newfoundland family dies in Alberta crash

The Canadian Press and The Telegram
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Single child survives

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FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — A pastor with a Pentecostal church, his wife and their youngest son are among the seven people who died in a two vehicle crash in northern Alberta, a leader with the church says.

Rev. Edwin Rideout of Family Christian Centre says Shannon Wheaton, his wife Trena, and their youngest son, Benjamin, all died in Friday’s crash between two pickups on Highway 63 between Edmonton and Fort McMurray.

Rideout says the couple’s oldest son, Timothy, 3, survived with minor injuries.

“(Wheaton) was one of the most gentle and generous individuals I have ever known,” Rideout said in an email.

“I considered him my son in ministry.”

RCMP have not confirmed the identities of any of the victims.

Police say Friday’s crash happened near Wandering River when a pickup truck going north on Highway 63 pulled out to pass another vehicle, colliding with another pickup travelling south.

Six people were in one of the pickups, while three were in the truck that had tried to pass.

The collision resulted in a serious fire, police said.

Passing motorists pulled a teenaged girl from one of the pickups, police said. She was airlifted to a hospital in Edmonton, but died a few hours later from her injuries.

A  28-year-old man were also airlifted to Edmonton hospitals. He is reported to be in serious but stable condition, police said.

Police on Saturday said a 34-year-old man, a 34-year-old woman, a 28-year-old woman, an 11-year-old girl, and a two-year-old boy were among the victims. Two other victims had not been identified, police said.

Rideout says Wheaton joined his staff at Family Christian Centre in Fort McMurray in 2010, but he and Wheaton had previously worked together for five years with a congregation in Springdale, NL.

The church’s website says a special service is planned for Sunday.

Rideout says grief counsellors will be available at the church for anyone who may need them.

“Thank all Canadians for their love and prayers,” Rideout said.

The highway is a busy route stretching north of Edmonton to Fort McMurray and north to the oilsands, where thousands of people work and tonnes of material and equipment moves daily.

Between 2001 and 2005, more than 1,000 crashes killed 25 people and injured 257 others on the highway.

Police say it was snowing in the area at the time of Friday’s crash.

Mike Allen, who is the newly-elected Progressive Conservative member of the legislature for the riding of Fort McMurray-Wood-Buffalo, says he’s seen drivers attempt to pass 20 vehicles at a time on Highway 63 between Fort McMurray and Edmonton.

The Alberta government announced it would twin the 240-kilometre stretch from Edmonton to Fort McMurray in 2006, but Allen says challenges with the terrain have meant only 16 kilometres of twinning have been completed.

Allen notes a lot of planning and preparation work for the twinning project has been done behind the scenes, and that Premier Alison Redford told people in Fort McMurray during this month’s election campaign that the job remains a priority.

Anyone who takes the road knows it can be scary, Allen said.

“Most of us who take the road on a regular basis plan our trips around when it will be less busy,” he said.

“Thursday and Friday are not good times,” he adds.

 

***

A Newfoundlander is among the dead in an Alberta car crash.

Shannon Wheaton has been identified in media reports as being one of seven people who died in the two vehicle crash.

It happened Friday on Highway 63 near Boyle, about 200 kilometres north of Edmonton. 

According to media reports Wheaton is a family pastor from here but had been living and working in Fort McMurray.

The crash is reported to have been between two pickup trucks. The stretch of road where it happened is known as one of the most dangerous in Alberta.  

More details will be posted as they become available.

***

THE CANADIAN PRESS

WANDERING RIVER, Alta. — Seven people were killed and two were injured in “horrific” head-on collision on one of Alberta’s deadliest highways.

The crash between happened Friday afternoon when a pickup truck going north on Highway 63 pulled out to pass another vehicle, colliding with another pickup travelling south.

“There was a significant fire as a result of the impact,” said Const. Christina Wilkins of Fort McMurray RCMP.

Passing motorists pulled a teenaged girl from the pickup that had been passing, say police. She was airlifted to a hospital in Edmonton, but died a few hours later from her injuries.

A young boy and a 34-year-old man were also airlifted to Edmonton hospitals. Their conditions are not known, and the identities and hometowns of the dead and injured have not been released.

It was snowing in the area at the time of the crash on the two-lane, undivided highway.

“There was some reduced visibility,” Wilkins said, adding weather was still bad late Friday.

“We ask that people please be careful when they’re travelling south of Fort McMurray, given the weather and the road conditions are still unfavourable.”

Six people were in one of the pickups, while three were in the truck that had tried to pass.

Highway 63 reopened to traffic late Friday evening, after being closed for about eight hours due to the crash.

Two years ago, volunteer firefighters from Wandering River stopped responding to accidents on the highway because they found the work overwhelming.

In 2011, the provincial government and Athabasca County invested $1.3 million to hire more emergency responders to cover the route.

The highway is a busy route stretching north of Edmonton to Fort McMurray and north to the oilsands, where thousands of people work and tonnes of material and equipment moves daily.

Between 2001 and 2005, more than 1,000 crashes killed 25 people and injured 257 others on the highway.

In 2006, after years of public pressure, the Alberta government announced that it would twin a 240-kilometre stretch of the road. As of October 2009, 16 kilometres had been twinned.

 

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Recent comments

  • danz
    April 29, 2012 - 20:48

    Although the telegrams coverage of this tragedy is respectful some of the national newspaper ..globe and mail in particular , disgusted me with thier gross and unsympathetic coverage not showing any respect for the families and friends...I am so sad for these poor families.

  • RIP
    April 28, 2012 - 19:00

    Inspired by 2 Timothy 16-18, I will pray for the family AND the repose of the soul of the Pastor. "May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorusn because he often gave me new heart and was not ashamed of my chains. But when he came to Rome, he promptly searched for me and found me. May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day. And you know very well the services he rendered in Ephesus."

  • Lisa
    April 28, 2012 - 18:06

    So unfortunate, his wife and child were also lost in this accident. RIP.