Facebook photos of the Wheaton family. Three of the four members were killed in a two-vehicle accident on Highway 63 near Boyle Alberta. 7 people in total died in the incident on Friday, April 27, 2012.
Credits: PERRY MAH/EDMONTON SUN QMI AGENCY
EDMONTON -- A congregation in Fort McMurray has been left devastated after their pastor and two of his family members were killed in a horrific highway crash.
Rev. Shannon Wheaton, a family ministries pastor, his wife Trena Thompson-Wheaton and their two-year-old son Benjamin are among seven people killed in the wreck that rocked the town Friday.
"It's a real tragedy, such a huge blow," said Pastor Regina Oppon, who worked alongside Wheaton at the Family Christian Centre. "We wish it could be a dream, that God could give them all back to us."
According to Wood Buffalo RCMP, two trucks collided on Highway 63 around 12 p.m. near Boyle, Alta., when a northbound pickup truck carrying three people attempted to pass another vehicle.
It struck the southbound pickup truck carrying Wheaton, Trena and their two sons - Benjamin and Timothy.
Mark and Courtney Penney, two of the Wheaton's close family friends, were also travelling with them.
Courtney - a 34-year-old pregnant Fort McMurray resident - was killed in the fiery crash along with Shannon, Trena and two-year-old Benjamin.
Both vehicles erupted into flames and Mounties say despite the heroic efforts of passersby, six people died at the scene.
The seventh victim - an 11-year-old girl who was pulled from the flaming wreckage - later died in hospital.
Police have not yet released the names of the Wheatons or the Penneys, but Oppon confirmed their identities Saturday.
"(The Wheatons) were a wonderful family, very loving," said Oppon, who was horrified when she heard the news. "Courtney and Mark were their best friends, you always saw them together, like brothers and sisters."
Three-year-old Timothy Wheaton and Mark Penney survived the crash police are calling horrific, but they were badly injured.
The pair were airlifted to Edmonton by STARS Air Ambulance and Phoenix Heli-Flight from Fort McMurray, RCMP said.
Timothy was taken to the Stollery Children's Hospital where Mounties say his condition has improved.
But according to Oppon, Mark, 28, - reported to be in serious but stable condition - is not out of the woods yet.
"He has survived, thank God, but they say he had critical wounds," she said, adding she's still in shock at the scope of the community's loss. "It's so sad."
Wheaton, who counselled families at the church and ran the youth Sunday service, was especially good with children, Oppon said.
"He had a gift, he could reach them," she said through tears. "The kids are all mourning."
The East-coast transplant spent three years as a children's pastor in his native Newfoundland at the Windsor Pentecostal Church before moving to Fort McMurray.
His extended family in Newfoundland have been notified and Oppon says they are expected to meet Timothy at the Stollery in the next day or so.
"Oh it's going to be hard for that boy," Oppon said. "I wish God could turn it around."