Three sisters are among the five people killed in a two-vehicle crash south of Edmonton on Tuesday.
Cheyanne Soosay, 22, Dominique Northwest, 19, and Latesha Northwest, 23, died in the collision, along with Tony Swampy, 30, and Terrelle Minde, 22.
“It’s tough to lose one family member, but when you lose five from a community… words can’t express,” Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback said. “I honestly don’t know what to say about this… I’m still in shock myself.
“Every loss we have in our community is hard. Part of it is that we’re an extended family community here so everybody kind of knows everybody. So whenever we lose somebody, it’s all tragic, it’s a huge loss.”
The crash happened at around 4:15 p.m. on Highway 2A north of Township Road 472, about five kilometres south of Millet, Alta.
“There were two vehicles — a car and an SUV — and that’s really the extent of what I can say,” Cpl. Laurel Scott said Wednesday.
“The nature of how they collided is still being investigated.”
Four people were pronounced dead at the scene, according to the RCMP. One was taken to hospital where they were pronounced dead. All five were in the same vehicle.
The driver and only occupant of the second vehicle was taken to hospital with minor injuries.
“This is very hard on the Maskwacis community, Wetaskiwin community, everybody who knows some of these people,” Scott said. “It’s hard for everybody, we recognize that.
“We also know that Maskwacis, not very long ago, had other people killed in a fatality. So this hits them hard.”
Saddleback said all five people killed were young adults between the ages of 20 and 30.
They were all from Maskwacis but were living in Wetaskiwin, he said.
Swampy was an academic upgrading student at NorQuest College’s Wetaskiwin campus, according to a statement from the college.
“He was known by faculty and students to be a positive presence on campus and his loss is considered a terrible tragedy. Our thoughts are with Tony’s friends and family, as well as the Maskwacis community,” read the statement.
The college said support is being made available to students and employees who may need assistance during the difficult time.
“We lost five members from the Maskwacis community,” Saddleback said. “We lost members from both the Samson and Ermineskin communities.
“I do want to give my condolences and my prayers to all families involved. This is a horrible, horrible tragedy for everyone involved in the losses.”
Leonard Norwest struggled to speak Wednesday about his three granddaughters.
“I can’t find my words,” said Norwest from the Samson Cree Nation, one of four that make up the community of Maskwacis south of Edmonton.
Norwest said his granddaughters grew up on the Samson reserve but were most recently living in nearby Wetaskiwin. Two of them were mothers of young children.
Their father, Orville Northwest, was planning to go to the crash site to smudge the area to help the young women on their journey to the spirit world.
“He’s taking it hard. He was always close to his kids,” said Norwest.
The other two victims — Swampy and Minde — were a young couple from the nearby Ermineskin Cree Nation.
Scott said police are receiving support as well as community members.
“The Maskwacis detachment is very involved right now with the chiefs, and they’ve got the Victims Services unit in Maskwacis helping and also the Urgent Mental Health Care workers … everyone works together to reach out and help families, friends, whoever needs support.”
Millet is approximately 40 kilometres south of Edmonton.
People who live along the busy highway said they knew something was terribly wrong Tuesday when STARS Air Ambulance landed at the crash scene and didn’t take off for quite some time.
Watch below: Five people are dead after a two-vehicle collision south of Edmonton Tuesday afternoon. It happened on Highway 2A near Millet, where Quinn Ohler joined Global News Morning live Wednesday morning.
“Regardless of your faith — whether you follow the Native traditions… or if you’re a Christian, if you’re Catholic, or Jewish or Muslim or Seventh Day Adventist — regardless of your faith, in these tough tragic times, we all believe in the power of prayer,” Saddleback said.
“I want to ask everyone out there who’s watching, listening or who’s going to read this story, if you could pray for our communities… and pray for those families.
Saddleback said he spent the morning meeting with the families’ grandmothers.
“You don’t know when tragedy is going to strike. You don’t know when you’re going to lose your loved ones. The only thing I can tell people out there is to make sure you love your parents, love your kids, love your spouse , love one another. Make sure you have no regrets in the life you live.”
— With files from Chris Purdy, The Canadian Press