Trust fund set up for victims of Sylvan Lake-area crash

Three Filipinos who came to Alberta for a new life will be remembered at a funeral service in Rocky Mountain House on Friday.

A memorial to the victims of Saturday’s crash near Sylvan Lake.

A memorial to the victims of Saturday’s crash near Sylvan Lake.

Three Filipinos who came to Alberta for a new life will be remembered at a funeral service in Rocky Mountain House today.

Newlyweds Napoleon Orbigo and Blesilda (Capule) Orbigo, and Ruben Deogracias were killed on Saturday after the Ford Mustang they were riding in collided with a five-ton truck on Hwy 11, near Sylvan Lake.

“They were just so happy to be here and for the opportunity,” said Tammy Hare, owner of Panago Pizza in Rocky. “They were just so personable. You just couldn’t help but love them.”

Capule, who was known to her friends as “Blessie,” and Deogracias were Dairy Queen employees, while Orbigo worked at Panago.

Hare said Orbigo arrived in Rocky in late April to work at her restaurant. He married his longtime girlfriend Blessie in September at a banquet hall in Rocky.

“He was a fantastic employee,” said Hare. “He was a great guy. He was so happy. He was always goofy and joking around.”

Dairy Queen owner Terri-anne Laut described “Blessie” as “the sweetest person ever.”

Her two-year anniversary at the fast food restaurant would have been Thursday. Hare said she was “a pleasant and loving person.”

Deogracias, 34, had worked at the Dairy Queen for more than a year. His wife lives in Dubai. Hare said the couple had not seen each other in more than two years.

“All three of them are going to leave huge holes in our hearts,” said Laut. “Ruben’s wife is devastated. My heart breaks for everyone involved.”

Hare said the outpouring of support for the three temporary foreign workers has been outstanding. Donations for the families and to send their bodies back to the Philippines are pouring in at both restaurants. Several Rocky community members have initiated fundraisers, including collections at the recent St. Dominic Catholic School basketball game.

Cassidy Leer, organizer, said they raised almost $8,000 on Wednesday evening. She estimated they need at least $25,000 to send all three home to the Philippines. A trust account has been set up at Rocky Mountain House Credit Union under the name: Panago and Dairy Queen In Trust of Our Filipino workers account No. 723050162483.

The deaths of the three temporary foreign workers was another blow to the Filipino community in Alberta. Only three weeks ago, on Nov. 22, four temporary foreign workers from the Philippines were killed in a crash on Hwy 21 near Leduc.

Police said driver inexperience may have been a factor in the Hwy 11 collision. It is still being investigated. The driver of the Mustang was in critical condition when he was taken to hospital in Edmonton. No update on his condition has been provided.

The province is conducting a survey until Jan. 2 in order to improve the Traffic Safety Act. One of the areas on the survey addresses drivers’ licences for temporary foreign workers. Alberta Transportation spokesperson Christine Way said the province is not considering changes to the temporary foreign workers licensing and will wait until the analysis of the survey before considering any changes.

Jane Compton, president of the Filipino Association in Red Deer, said many of the temporary foreign workers who come to Canada are not familiar with black ice and winter driving conditions.

Temporary foreign workers are authorized to drive during their work term using their drivers’ licences from their home countries and an international driver’s permit.

The funeral service will be held at the Rocky Mountain House Funeral Chapel at 2 p.m. The public viewing will start at 9 a.m.