On Thursday, September 30, two canoes left Moose Factory to go on the traditional goose hunt. The canoes carried 11 people toward Hannah Bay, some 40 miles from Moose Factory.

The trip wasn’t an unusual one for the Moose Factory Crees, said Norm Wesley. But this time, one of the boats got swamped about 20 miles out as winds got heavier, said Wesley, who is coordinating communications for the continuing search for the victims.

Only three people survived the accident and eight went missing. Five bodies of the eight have been recovered. Moose Factory and Waskaganish were in shock at the tragedy. Lost were Kenny Echum, Billy Echum, Anita Echum and her three children Michael, Mark and Keisha, and niece Misty Echum – all of Moose Factory – and Johnny Namagoose of Waskaganish.

“This is a real tragedy for our community,” said Wesley. He said the search will go on until everyone is brought back home.

The accident happened near Netichee Point, which some people call “Cape Fear.” The point juts out into a wind-swept part of the bay where the water is very choppy and swirls around in whirlpools. Getting around the point is made harder by a shallow shoal that protrudes out past the point.

Wesley said hundreds of volunteers and thousands of dollars in donations have poured in to help with the search.

“Our primary focus has been recovery of our people. We depend on those people who come forward in helping us,” he said. The band hasn’t had time to meet with government
officials to see what financial assistance it will provide.

Wesley said the Ontario Provincial Police have also been helpful in providing 10 people for the ground search and use of a helicopter. Natural Resources also provided helicopter and aircraft during the second week of the search.

About $110,000 in donations have been made to help Moose Factory with the estimated $185,000 cost of the search so far.

“To date we’ve had over 300 volunteers for the ground crew, base camps and command posts. People have been very generous in our community and other First Nations communities and in the south as well,” Wesley said.

But the costs are continuing to grow. Wesley said more donations are sorely needed so the search can continue as long as possible.

“There is no discussion at this point in terms of how long are we going to go. We found something two days ago (Oct. 10). We know we’re very close to making another recovery,” Wesley said.

“We’ve had people come from as far west as Webeequie (a small First Nations community in Ontario). Eighteen came from that far and they’re out in the field right now,” he said.

“As deep as this tragedy has run through our hearts there has been an outpouring of passion and community togetherness. I’ve been born and raised here and I’ve never seen anything like this. We feel that’s God’s blessing in the middle of this tragedy.”