A priest asked his congregation to pray for victims and first responders at a church service in Fort Smith on Sunday days after six people died in a tragic plane crash.
The charter plane had just taken off from the town on the boundary with Alberta and was en route to the Diavik Diamond Mine on Tuesday morning, when it hit the ground and caught fire.
One mine worker survived and was airlifted to hospital in Yellowknife.
Father Aaron Solberg of St. Joseph’s Anglican church addressed the crash at his weekly service and offered a prayer for both the living and the dead.
Solberg said there was a “hole in our hearts” for the families.
“Bring them consolation and comfort. Bless those who have survived and cure their memories of trauma and anguish,” Solberg said.
“We pray for our health-care workers. We pray for the mental health of the Rangers and the RCMP and all first responders. We pray for the pilots … for those who work in or with the airlines. We pray for those who have no choice but to fly.”
Army Rangers rushed to the crash site on snowmobiles after the plane went down, along with EMS, hoping to provide aid to the victims.
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The Transportation Safety Board has released photos of the crash site showing the plane severely damaged, its fuselage tattered, lying in a heavily wooded area just west of town.
Increased counselling is being offered for all residents including in the schools.
Father Solberg said at a time like this people should not be alone and his sermon called for more support from others within the community.
“Things are not OK,” Solberg said in an interview with The Canadian Press after the service.
“It’s always the concern that people start to become really bitter rather than work through it.”
Solberg has only been in Fort Smith for six months but has spent years in the North. He said it was important to include the first responders in his prayer.
“I work closely with enough of them, or know enough of them, to know what they saw and what they experienced on that day is traumatic. I know what that can do to people,” he said.
“I saw also that this is a tragedy that struck the whole community. People are really broken up. It’s like the emotion has been squeezed out of you. No one’s unaffected by it.”
Solberg said he is worried people will try and ignore what happened and move on. He said the only way through the grief is to confront it head on and talk about it.
“It’s my big worry because we need to talk about it. We need to be together in community. It has affected so many people,” Solberg said.
“This town just keeps getting hit by one tragedy after another and one traumatic event after another and it catches up with you.”
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