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Mayor of western Manitoba community says outpouring of support appreciated

Police say dashcam footage from the truck showed it had the right of way when the bus drove into its path
A sign is seen outside a business in Dauphin, Man., on Saturday June 17, 2023. The mood remains sombre in the city as area residents learn more details of a highway crash that killed 15 people and injured 10. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Steve Lambert

The streets of this western Manitoba city were quiet Saturday (June 17) as residents awaited confirmation on whether they knew any of the 15 killed or 10 injured in a horrific highway collision this week.

Outside city hall on Main Street in Dauphin, Man., there were few people passing by the flags at half-mast and the digital billboard that displayed a burning candle.

A few blocks away, a portable sign outside a plumbing business said: “We love you, Dauphin.”

Mayor David Bosiak said the support centre for families of those involved in the crash was not very busy.

There were no visible makeshift memorials, unlike in the aftermath of the bus crash 400 kilometres west in Humboldt, Sask., five years ago that killed 16 people, most members of the Broncos hockey team.

Cam Bennet, a Dauphin high school teacher, said that may be because in Humboldt, it was immediately clear that members of a hockey team had perished. This situation is different.

“We’re all still waiting to see who was on that bus. We all know that we’re going to know someone (who was), and it’s just a matter of waiting and finding out,” said Bennet.

Residents are banding together by calling each other and checking on friends and relatives, he added.

Jason Gilmore, president of the Dauphin Rail Museum, said he moved back to the city in 2018 to be with family.

He said it’s likely most people will know of someone who was on the minibus because of the community’s closeness.

“It’s palpable to me, just the… sense of grief, shock,” he said.

“You can get a sense that people are trying to just figure out how they’re supposed to feel right now.”

Business owners downtown said the pace of the city seemed slower than normal.

One shopkeeper wiped tears from her eyes as she reflected on the crash, noting many of the victims were friends and would come by to the store.

Mounties, meanwhile, continued their investigation to determine exactly why the bus — carrying 24 seniors and the driver on a day trip from the Dauphin Active Living Centre — was struck by an eastbound semi-truck as it crossed the Trans-Canada Highway. The collision took place some 190 kilometres south of Dauphin just before noon on Thursday.

READ MORE: Manitoba RCMP say transport truck in crash that killed 15 had right-of-way

Rescuers arrived to find multiple casualties, pavement littered with auto parts and what appeared to be a walker, and an engulfed minibus that would burn to a blackened shell.

Those on the bus ranged in age from 58 to 88. It was just minutes away from its destination, the Sand Hills Casino in Carberry, 170 kilometres west of Winnipeg.

Police say dashcam footage from the truck showed it had the right of way when the bus drove into its path in the eastbound lanes.

Police have said a lot more still has to be determined, including speeds at the time and the condition of the vehicles before the crash.

The semi’s driver has been released from hospital, while the minibus driver remains among the 10 hospitalized with injuries. Police have not spoken yet with the bus driver.

Officials with the provincial health authority said six of the 10 injured were in critical condition as of Saturday morning.

Of the 25 on the bus, 19 were women.

Once the survivors were identified Friday, police said it allowed them to deliver the shattering news to the other families that the remaining 15 on the bus were presumed dead.

But the medical examiner said work continues on identifying the victims — using fingerprints and dental records if need be, given the severity of the injuries.

Condolences have come in from across Canada and on Friday the flag on the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa was lowered to half-mast.

A moment of silence was held ahead of the Canadian Football League game Friday night between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Bosiak said a decision could come Monday on a potential public memorial or similar event.

Dauphin, a picturesque town of some 8,600, is known as the hub for business and tourism in the region, nestled between a national park to the south, a provincial park to the northwest and lakes to the east. It is a green city, with mature trees in most areas and flower boxes along Main Street.

The community has fared better than some other rural areas in avoiding a population decline. Its numbers have been steady for two decades.

But it is an older community. More than one in four residents is above age 65, according to Statistics Canada. The Dauphin Active Living Centre is a relative beehive of activity. People gather for bingo, coffee, meals and friendly chatter.

Kim Armstrong, the centre’s administrator, said the facility has become a second home to many who are mourning.

“We encourage that, and we want individuals to come in and just sit if they need to have a cup of coffee,” she said, adding the centre is to reopen on Monday.

Armstrong said some of the victims live in seniors complexes and that she’s spoken with a couple family members.

“Our community has received such a blow and it’s going to take time to heal, but I think Dauphin is strong and we can do it together.”

Steve Lambert and Jeremy Simes, The Canadian Press

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