Service marks five years since Flight 491

Josh Pennell
Published on March 13, 2014
Kevin Duggan holds his granddaughter, Grace Duggan, 3, as she reaches out and touches the portrait of her uncle, Wade Duggan, who was killed in the Cougar Flight 491 helicopter crash March 12, 2009. They were among family and members of the public attending the fifth annual EZRA Chaplaincy Services Inc. memorial service for those killed in the crash. The chopper crashed in the Atlantic Ocean during a flight to the offshore oil rigs. From Brigus South, Duggan’s son Wade was 32. The memorial service was held at the Bethesda Pentecostal Church on Macdonald Drive in St. John’s. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

The annual memorial service for the victims of Cougar Flight 491 drew enough people to fill many of the seats of Betheseda Pentecostal Church five years after the tragic chopper crash.

It’s difficult to measure the weight of those five years. As Danny Breen, brother of Cougar 491 victim Peter Breen, told The Telegram earlier this week, “In some ways it’s hard to believe it’s five years. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. Sometimes it feels like 20 years ago.”

 Time helps healing

It was evident at the ceremony that some time had passed since the shock of March 12, 2009.

An opening message from the families given by Lori Chynn said that the five years have been a journey with plenty of twists and turns.

Family and friends participated in ceremony

Chynn gave thanks to everybody who offered so many thoughts and prayers during that difficult time and continue to do so.

Chynn spoke about how it takes a community to heal after such a tragic loss.

Later in the service a family member said it was only recently she realized how much of an impact the crash had on the whole community.  

Rev. Edison Wiltshire, who conducted the service, also reflected on the time that had passed and how much different it was during that first service.

“I remember preparing a script that I couldn’t read,” he said. He chose, instead, to speak off the cuff and from the heart.

The family members of the victims all played roles in the service, participating in readings, prayers and songs. Wiltshire highlighted this, too, as evidence that time and love have started to help them heal. He spoke of the strength the families now have to be able to take part in what they never felt they could then.

“I have seen that love taking place,” he said.

Most of the service didn’t speak of helicopters or safety regulations or report recommendations. It spoke of healing. But as the name of each victim was read aloud and their picture was shown on a screen at the front of the church, the reality of the hardship of that day and every day since was as evident as it had been five years ago.

As candles were lit for each victim, and friends and family members of each stood silently, the weight of how much loss was gathered in one room was clear.

What has happened over  the last five years seems to have nothing to do with forgetting, but if anything, remembering more, not the events of that day, but the people the service was honouring.

“We see that life has gone on,” Wiltshire said.