Hundreds mourn crash victims, as call for twinning Hwy 63 grows
Published Sunday, April 29, 2012 7:12PM MDT
It was a sombre day for hundreds who attend a Fort McMurray church, as news of the death of a popular pastor, and much of his family in a crash Friday, spread – meanwhile, thousands are increasing their call to twin the highway where the tragedy happened.
Two days after a fiery, head-on crash on Highway 63 took the lives of Rev. Shannon Wheaton, his wife Trena and their son Benjamin, their friend Courtney Penney and three others – hundreds gathered at the church where Wheaton worked to mourn the loss.
"Certainly, you could feel the mourning throughout the entire room," Fort McMurray – Wood Buffalo MLA Mike Allen said Sunday.
Ahead of Sunday's service, the Family Christian Centre where Wheaton served as a pastor posted a statement on the tragic crash, calling Wheaton "a great friend, mentor, visionary and pioneer."
The statement continues with a quote from the Lead Pastor at the church, Rev. Edwin Rideout who "described Shannon as one of the most gentle and generous individuals he [had] ever known."
Grief counselors will be at the centre on Monday and Tuesday, to help those affected by the tragedy.
"It's just devastated this entire community," Fort McMurray – Conklin MLA Don Scott said. "We're just a community in mourning right now with this event."
While many are mourning the death toll, thousands are joining in a call to twin the highway where the crash happened.
Highway 63 is the major thoroughfare between Edmonton, and Fort McMurray – but most of it has not been twinned – leaving north and southbound lanes running side by side.
A Facebook group called "Please Twin Highway 63" has almost doubled in support – to more than 10,000 members in two days, about 1500 people have signed up to take part in a protest to the lack of progress on the highway.
Some are also lighting virtual candles, signing a petition and writing letters to Premier Alison Redford and other provincial officials on a website which has dubbed the highway as ‘Alberta's Deadliest Highway'.
Both MLAs for the Fort McMurray area told CTV News they would push to make the highway a priority in the Legislature.
"People have been asking me all weekend, to make sure Hwy 63 is a priority, and it is a priority," MLA Don Scott said.
"Don and I will both be advocating very strongly to get some timelines together," MLA Mike Allen said.
A spokesperson for the Premier told CTV News Redford would review and respond to the letters next week, when she returns home from some time away.
With files from Bill Fortier