WOODSTOCK, Ont. — The town of Napanee, Ont., was left reeling Sunday after their fire department was struck by road crashes a day apart, one of which left one woman dead and 12 others injured.
Five firefighters from Napanee were first injured in a crash Saturday night on Highway 401 near London, Ont., as they travelled to their hometown in eastern Ontario from a competition in Windsor.
Their families had then gone to visit them in hospital on Saturday.
A chartered bus with a driver and 12 passengers, including some of those recovering from the earlier crash, was returning home Sunday morning when the vehicle went “airborne” and rolled into a ditch about an hour along Highway 401 near Woodstock, Ont., police said.
Darlene Goodfellow, 49, was killed at the scene, said Napanee spokeswoman Rebecca Murphy. Her husband David was one of the volunteer firefighters involved in the first accident on Saturday.
“We’re all deeply saddened by the loss,” said Murphy. “They were part of the family, she and David, of the firefighter family.”
Darlene Goodfellow was confirmed dead at the scene. The 49-year-old had three children aged 20, 16 and 11.
“They’re at a great loss right now,” Murphy said. “We’re just all thinking about them right now.”
David Goodfellow, a firefighter with more than 30 years of service, remains in a London-area hospital.
Murphy said a few of the more seriously injured were undergoing surgery. The injuries ranged from broken and dislocated bones to more serious lacerations.
Gordon Schermerhorn, the mayor of Napanee, said his community is shaken and rallying together to console the victim’s family.
“We’re pulling together and we’ll come through this,” Schermerhorn said by phone Sunday afternoon.
“We’re not very big in population but we’re big in heart and we know one another very well through the community.”
“Everyone knows the firefighters and the volunteer firefighters and so we certainly are trying our best and doing whatever we can to help the families and the people who are away from home at this time.”
Schermerhorn said bereavement counsellors in Napanee are working with Goodfellow’s children.
“We’re certainly doing everything that we possibly can do.”
The group from Napanee was originally in Windsor to participate in a regional round of FireFit, an annual firefighter competition.
Only one firefighter from the original group and his wife were not on the bus returning home Sunday morning.
All the passengers involved in Sunday’s crash were transported to London-area hospitals. Five passengers and the driver remained in hospital Sunday evening.
Those who had been released were in the Woodstock area as Napanee town staff arranged for safe transport home for everyone.
Volunteers from the Red Cross were at hand to meet the needs of the survivors who were waiting to head home.
Gord Latford said the organization had supplied everyone with new clothes because their original gear had been splattered with blood from the crash.
“Some persons were having difficulty walking, so we have supplied them with wheelchairs to get them where they need to go and really look after whatever needs they describe to us,” he added.
Latford said he expected the group to head home sometime on Monday.
Members of the victims assistance services of Oxford County were also available to help the crash survivors come to terms with the tragic events of the weekend.
“Imagine what they’ve been through,” said volunteer Lisa Murphy. “Very shocked, very traumatized, very sore.”
Part of Highway 401 near Highway 403 was closed in the aftermath of the 6 a.m. crash while police investigated.
The bus was operated by McCoy Bus Service, based in Kingston, Ont.
“At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the passengers on the bus and with the family of the person who was lost,” company spokesman Shawn Geary said in a prepared statement.
Geary said the company is co-operating with police and will not make further comment until the investigation is complete.
Police said they still don’t know why the bus went off the road, but local media reports say it was raining heavily at the time.
—With files from Dominque Jarry-Shore and Diana Mehta in Toronto