‘A year of grief’: Family members of Carberry bus crash victims reflect 1 year later

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‘A year of grief’: Family members of Carberry bus crash victims reflect 1 year later
Many family members of victims of the Carberry bus crash are reflecting on a year of heartbreak and resiliency. One year after the crash took the lives of 17 seniors and seriously injured eight others. Marney Blunt reports – Jun 14, 2024

It’s been nearly one year since a bus carrying 25 people, most of them seniors, left Dauphin, Man., and never returned.

The bus, which was heading to the Sand Hills Casino near Carberry, Man., collided with a semi at the intersection of Highway 5 and the Trans-Canada Highway on June 15, 2023, killing 17 people and seriously injuring eight others.

For many, it’s been a year of heartbreak and resiliency; some mourning the loss of their loved ones, others focusing on a long road to recovery.

Lanie Rausch’s grandmother, Catherine Day, was seriously injured in the crash and died a month later in hospital.

“My grandma was the best. She was my best friend, we did everything together, and I’m going to get emotional talking about it,” Rausch told Global News. “But every Friday when I was in town, I’d either walk over to her house to have egg salad sandwiches or we’d either go out on Friday with her friends.”

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She says one year without her grandmother has been difficult.

“It’s been hard, like I said, we’d talk on the phone daily. Sometimes more than once. She’d call me and she’d tell me about her day and her complaints and I’d call and do the same with her,” Rausch said.

“We were always together. Even if I saw her in the mall I’d go up behind her and pinch her bum and scare her and stuff. That was just a thing, my grandpa used to do it to her so when he passed on I said, ‘Don’t worry, Grandpa, I got this.'”

Teresa Rausch and her mother, Catherine Day. Courtesy / Teresa Rausch

This week, Rausch and her 11-month-old son, Gus, and mother, Teresa Rausch, met with Global News at their matriarch’s gravesite in Dauphin.

“We miss her. We miss her at family occasions. She was a big fixture in our family with all the grandchildren, all the birthday parties,” Day’s daughter, Teresa, said.

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“We got a new ladder for our pool last year thinking she would go in it, because she loved our pool; never got a chance to do that. We’re missing her.”

Lanie says she’s grateful she got the opportunity to introduce her son to his great-grandmother before she died. She says Gus was just three days old at the time, and lay on his great-grandmother’s chest while she was in the hospital bed. Just days later, Day died.

Eleven-month-old Gus sits beside his great-grandparents’ grave. He was able to meet his great-grandmother, Catherine Day, when he was just three days old while she was in hospital after the crash. Marney Blunt / Global News

“I told her, ‘Hold on, Grandma.’ I talked to her on the phone and I said, ‘I haven’t had him yet, you can’t go yet, you gotta hang around for that’ … and she did,” Lanie said through tears.

Catherine Day holding her three-day-old great-grandson’s foot while she was in hospital. She died days later. Courtesy / Lanie Rausch

“She got to hold his little feet and have him on her chest and we had a good cry. And she knew and I knew, and at least we got some peace with that, I think she held on to meet my son.”

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This week is also a difficult one for Patrick Furkalo, whose mother, Margaret Furkalo, died in the crash.

Furkalo says he’s been keeping busy in his taxidermy shop to keep his mind occupied, but also as a way of feeling close to his mother.

“The taxidermy definitely keeps me busy and it does give me a chance to reflect on things. My mom was a big part of my life with the taxidermy,” Furkalo said.

Patrick Furkalo’s mother, Margaret Furkalo, died in the Carberry bus crash. He says his mother used to help him in his Dauphin taxidermy shop. Jordan Pearn / Global News

“I’ve got pictures of her bagging furs and sending them to the fur markets and sewing things for me. Whenever I needed something for my fur rugs I would say, ‘Mom, I need some felt,'” he added.

“That was tough, because there’s a few times you’re using up the last little bit of felt that she cut for you…. Yeah, that’s hard.”

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Furkalo working on a bear rug in his Dauphin taxidermy shop. Jordan Pearn / Global News

Furkalo says the past year has been extremely difficult and filled with firsts: every family event or occasion he thinks about who’s not there.

“Some days you’re just in that frame of mind where it takes you back to the day of. And you try to think about other things, just her life and what it meant to her family,” he said.

“I’m sure we all know that she wouldn’t want us to grieve all the time, she would want us to keep doing what we did in our life before.”

Furkalo was one of the family members involved with planning the unveiling of a memorial monument and bench in Dauphin on Saturday, honouring the victims and survivors of the crash.

“We just didn’t want things to get forgotten and we wanted a place where people would be able to go gather and reflect,” he said.

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More than 400 people are expected to attend, including numerous family members and first responders. Furkalo says he looks forward to meeting and thanking the first responders, and asking how they’re doing.

“This weekend is not about what happened or how it happened, it’s about what happened after it happened. It’s still a process for us. We want to know what happened after the event…. Was my mom pulled out of the bus? Who held her hand?” he said.

“Time to reflect. That’s what the day is about; to talk to people, share some hugs and ask them how they’re doing.”

Reflecting is something many have been doing this week, including Ernie Sirski, the reeve of the Rural Municipality of Dauphin.

“It’s been a year of grief, there’s no doubt about that, and the grieving hasn’t stopped. And something like this, I don’t think ever will heal the pain,” Sirski said.

RM of Dauphin Reeve Ernie Sirski. Jordan Pearn / Global News

Sirski says the event on Saturday will likely be an emotional and meaningful day.

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“I’ll think of the people that used to sing in my church choir with me — there was several of them that were affected by this, several that are no longer with us — because they were important people in my life. We shared a culture, we shared a religion, and we shared the love of song too,” Sirski said.

“In Ukrainian culture, we have a celebration for the one-year demise of people. A lot of these people were of Ukrainian culture; I think that’s going to be important for them. But just to have the support of the community I think is something that we look forward to, and want to show the survivors and families of the victims that we are still here for them.”

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