Crash victims mourned

Published November 1, 2003

The plane crashed 10 km from its destination of Nibinamik, Ont.

The predominantly Anglican native community of Nibinamik, also known as Summer Beaver, in northern Ontario was shaken Sept. 11 when seven members of the village and a pilot were killed in a plane crash.

A Wasaya Airways Cessna Grand Caravan was traveling from Pickle Lake to Nibinamik, about 400 km north of Thunder Bay , when it went down about 10 km from its destination. There were no survivors. The cause of the crash was not known and the federal Transportation Safety Board was investigating.

“We sent seven clergy in on Sept. 12, when we heard about the crash, and a couple of crisis workers,” said Rev. Cathy Giroux, director of administration of the diocese of Keewatin , which covers eastern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario . The Anglican church of St. Barnabas is the only church in the community of about 350, she said. The priest in charge, Rev. Georgina Neshinapaise, lost a brother and brother-in-law in the accident, according to Bishop David Ashdown of Keewatin .

The casualties included Nibinamik First Nation deputy chief Lawrence Yellowhead, band councillors Mike Wabasse and Richard Beaver, band co-ordinator Leonard Sugarhead, equipment operator Rudy Neshinapaise, Mr. Wabasse’s sister-in-law, Violet Wabasse, her seven-year-old grandson, Nathan Wabasse and pilot Jonathon Hulls.

Bishop Ashdown travelled to Nibinamik on Sept. 19 to preside over a funeral for the seven victims. “To preside at a funeral with six adult coffins and one child’s coffin lined up in front of you is a pretty sobering event. At the last hymn, it’s a tradition to place hands on the coffin and there was a sea of hands placed on these seven coffins for the last goodbye. Everybody was affected,” he said in an interview.

About 1,200 people arrived in the small community for the funeral. The diocese has a pastoral care plan in place to keep clergy in the community for the coming year.

The diocese has also established a Nibinamik Crisis Appeal Fund, to help meet costs for clergy going into the community and to supply food. The fund had reached $8,000 by late September, with St. Alban’s Cathedral in the diocesan see city of Kenora contributing $5,000 and the diocese of Ottawa sending an unspecified amount.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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