Pastor identified in deadly Alberta highway crash
Published Saturday, April 28, 2012 10:33PM EDT
Community members mourning the deaths of seven people on a busy stretch of highway in Alberta have confirmed the identity of a family torn apart by the tragedy.
Church and community members in Fort McMurray say that among the victims of Friday's crash are 34-year-old pastor Shannon Wheaton and his wife Trena.
One of the couple's children, a two-year-old boy, died in the crash. The family's lone survivor is a three-year-old boy named Timothy, who is in stable condition in an Edmonton hospital, CTV Edmonton reports.
Two pickup trucks were involved in the collision Friday afternoon near Wandering River on Highway 63, which links Edmonton and Fort McMurray.
In addition to the three-year-old survivor, a 28-year-old male is also in hospital. Police said that the child is doing well, and that the injured male is in serious but stable condition.
A 28-year-old female and an 11-year-old girl also died in the crash. The two other victims have not been identified
At the time of the crash, one of the vehicles was travelling north and attempting to pass when it collided with a southbound vehicle, said RCMP Const. Christian Wilkins.
There were three people inside the northbound truck, while the southbound pickup was carrying six people.
The identities of the Wheaton family members were confirmed by the pastor's father, CTV Edmonton reported.
Wheaton originally hailed from Newfoundland, and had experience as a child pastor at the Windsor Pentecostal Church in Grand Falls, N.L., said Pastor Robert Parsons.
Wheaton was described as "a family man … somebody who loved children … and gave his heart and soul to his work."
Wheaton relocated to Fort McMurray about two years ago, and began working at the Family Christian Centre, a Pentecostal Church.
On Saturday, community and church members gathered at the church to grieve the loss.
Meanwhile, investigators are trying to pinpoint the cause of a head-on crash, and the vehicles have been taken to a forensics lab for further investigation, CTV Edmonton reporter Bill Fortier reported.
It was snowing at the time of the crash and police have said that reduced visibility may have contributed to the incident.
"Weather is one of the main factors they're looking into in terms of what could have been a factor in this," Fortier said in a phone interview from Fort McMurray.
He added police continue to look into other possible factors such as speed or alcohol.
Authorities in Alberta are in the process of twinning the two-lane highway, which is reputed to be a dangerous stretch of road.
"It's become somewhat notorious," said Fortier.
Between 2001 and 2005, more than 25 people died on the highway and 257 others were injured. During that time, 1,000 crashes were recorded.
In 2010, volunteer firefighters from Wandering River stopped working the road because the number of accidents was simply too high.