Rural Alberta community mourning after a year of tragedy

A rural Alberta community is grappling with the death of another child in less than a year. Four children, all under the age of 10, have died in different incidents in the small hamlet.

On Saturday, a five-year-old boy was struck by a pickup truck his father was driving, RCMP say. He died at the scene outside the Plamondon Landfill where he and his father had just finished unloading.

Plamondon is about 200 kilometres north of Edmonton and falls within Lac La Biche County. The hamlet has around 350 residents. 

The county mayor says council and members have been trying to find a way to help the community through not just one, but four tragic deaths of children since Dec. 23, 2018. 

We’re heartbroken.– Omer Moghrabi, Lac La Biche County Mayor

“It really does rock the entire community when this happens,” said Omer Moghrabi, the mayor of Lac La Biche County.

In December of last year, a mother and two of her sons died in a highway crash near Plamondon, leaving behind her husband and third son.

The Sherbakov family, in an image from an online fundraising campaign started after mother Elisaveta and sons Alexander and Zenon died in December 2018 in a northern Alberta highway crash. (Gofundme)

In June, nine days after settling in to the hamlet, a father and his two-year-old daughter died in a house fire. The father, Nathan Payette, died after saving his partner and then going back inside to try to save his daughter. 

Community in mourning

Moghrabi said there’s no way to prepare a community for incidents like these. 

“We’re just not ready. We’re not built as human beings to bury our children,” Moghrabi said.

Counselling has been offered to the community and any additional crisis victims services needed, he said.

About five of his team members responded to the fatality Friday and are now being being provided with supports through the critical incident stress management team, said John Kokotilo, manager of Protective Services and the fire chief of Lac La Biche County.

The mayor said the death of any child can be traumatic, but he said in a community with fewer than 400 people it leaves a hole.

“We’re heartbroken,” Moghrabi said.

As RCMP continue to investigate, Moghrabi said his team of council members will be working on their own safety investigation of the roads near the landfill. “Whatever is possible that we can do that it does not happen again,” he said.

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