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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Snow Lake closes ranks around Gogal family

Posted: 11/20/2012 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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SNOW LAKE -- Members of this northern community are grieving for local pilot Mark Gogal and the seven miners injured in Sunday morning's plane crash.

"The mood in the community is sombre and quiet," Mayor Clarence Fisher said during a news briefing Monday at the town office. "People are waiting to find out the facts and do whatever we can to support the (Gogal) family."

Fisher said the town offers its condolences to the families of people involved in the crash.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of them," Fisher said. "We have full confidence that the community will pull together."

Fisher said he grew up in Snow Lake with Gogal, adding the pilot and his family are an integral part of the community.

The air crash was the worst he can remember occurring in the community, he said.

Most local residents declined to talk about the crash, citing respect for the Gogal family.

"People are still in shock," Patricia St. Jean, owner of the local café, Franal's, said, explaining the reserve. "They're still waiting for more news."

Dennis St. Jean, Patricia's husband, is a loader operator at the Lalor mine and knew Gogal and all the passengers, who are employed as shaft workers.

St. Jean said the miners had just completed a 20-day rotation and were heading to Winnipeg when the crash occurred. None of the injured miners was local, he said, adding they hailed from back East -- Ottawa, Quebec and New Brunswick.

"My heart is still thumping," he said. "They're all good fellows, hard workers."

The miners were contract workers supplied by Dumas Mining Corp. The company issued a statement Monday afternoon, offering its condolences to the Gogal family and friends and stating it will support its employees and their families.

Fisher said he was proud of the way the community responded when word of the crash spread through the town.

"Moving through difficult terrain as quickly as possible, these crews managed to clear a road to the crash site, administer first aid to the injured and remove them from the bush," he said.

Fisher said the town had conducted a full-scale emergency exercise only a few weeks before, adding he believes that contributed to the well co-ordinated effort involving town staff, the RCMP, Conservation and search and rescue.

"All indicators point to an immediate and excellent response," he said.

-- Aldo Santin

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 20, 2012 A3

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