July 22nd, 2024

‘Reminder of the people:’ Monument unveiled honouring victims of Manitoba crash

By Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press on June 15, 2024.

An elderly man pauses before Sunday service at St. George's Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in Dauphin, Man., Sunday, June 18, 2023. A ceremony is set for Saturday afternoon to remember 17 people who died in a bus crash in western Manitoba on June 15, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

DAUPHIN, Man. – Mourners, dignitaries and first responders flocked to a western Manitoba park on Saturday afternoon for the unveiling of a monument commemorating the victims and survivors of a deadly bus crash that took place one year ago.

More than 200 people – including Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew – were on hand for the official unveiling in the city of Dauphin, with many setting up lawn chairs in CN park and others embracing under overcast skies.

Family members of the 17 victims spearheaded efforts to create a dedicated space where the public can pay their respects to those who died, as well as the seven seniors who survived.

“(The monument) celebrates some of the recoveries happening. We want to acknowledge that they were apart of the (crash),” said Lavonne Tyschinski, whose mother Shirley Novalkowski, 76, died at the scene of the collision.

The large, black monument bears a written description of the events of June 15, 2023, along with a list of the people killed and those who survived. A large grey heart with two sketches of clasped hands accompanies the written text. The space also includes a black bench inscribed with the victims’ names.

The bus was carrying 25 seniors from Dauphin to a casino near Carberry when it collided with a semi-trailer. The bus was on Highway 5 and crossing the Trans-Canada Highway at the time.

Police have said the semi-trailer had the right of way. Traffic along the Trans-Canada is free-flowing, while vehicles that cross at the intersection on Highway 5 have stop and yield signs.

The horrific crash left the bus in flames, debris strewn in all directions and first responders dealing with a chaotic scene of death and injury.

Some crash victims were taken to nearby hospitals, while others were sent to Winnipeg.

RCMP have said their investigation is now in the hands of Crown attorneys who will decide whether to lay charges.

The Mounties said they may never be able to talk to the bus driver, who was among the survivors who suffered severe injuries.

Patrick Furkalo’s mother, Margaret Furkalo, lived for five days following the crash. The one-year anniversary marked the first time the family was able to learn more about the immediate moments after the accident.

“We got questions answered that we were looking for. We got to meet the people that were with my mom that transported her from the crash site…to eventually Health Sciences Centre (in Winnipeg),” said Patrick Furkalo, who was part of the group who developed the monument.

“As soon as I…saw those people in uniform, the emotion just overtook.”

For Darlene Prytula, speaking with the first responders offered some long-sought relief.

“We were reassured that everybody had somebody with them whether they were deceased or alive. That was reassuring just to know that they didn’t die alone,” said Prytula, who’s mother, Donna Showdra, died at the scene.

The memorial also gave families to chance to thank the first responders, said Furkalo.

Kinew told ceremony attendees that his government would also recognize first-responders at the scene with the Order of the Buffalo Hunt, which awards people for community service or leadership.

“We’ll find the time soon to do that in a honourable way, a respectful way and in a way that does right by you. On a personal level I cannot thank you enough,” he said.

The ceremony included a performance of Amazing Grace by local musicians, a prayer and a moment of silence, as well as time to read the name of every senior on the bus out loud. Volunteers handed out programs with small packets of seeds of forget me not flowers to plant after the ceremony.

Dauphin Mayor David Bosiak told the crowd he hopes as time passes the monument will bring some joy instead of sorrow.

“It’s just that reminder of the people – not of the accident,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2024.

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