Family endures `brutal wait for body after helicopter crash

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Frank Henley says the wait for word on his son after he was lost in a helicopter crash off Newfoundland is "brutal" as he and other family members yearn for the return of the bodies of their 16 loved ones.
Colin Henley, 38, was a weather observer with Provincial Aerospace Ltd., and had retrained for his new profession after a career in real estate. His father said Sunday the flight was his son's first journey to work on an offshore oil platform.
"It's very difficult, very difficult. To have him back would at least take that emptiness away, or reduce it anyway," Henley said in an interview from his home in St. John's.
"You'd have something to hang onto. The waiting is brutal."
The body of 26-year-old Allison Maher was recovered shortly after Thursday's crash. There was one survivor, Robert Decker, who remains in hospital.
Colin Henley's loss was among the sad stories of lost futures circulating through towns across the province on Sunday as the list of victims grew.
"He (Colin) was just hired and had done the courses and tests, and that was his first trip. That was supposed to be his first trip out," said Henley.
He said his son, who was married, was on a fresh path in life.
"It was a shock and surprise to us that he would do it, but he figured the real estate market was going down and he wanted something where he'd get a regular income and that sort of thing."
The Transportation Safety Board - which is overseeing the recovery operation - said Sunday that 10 to 13 bodies had been spotted by a remotely operated camera. One body had been hoisted from the wreckage to the surface in a basket.
Asked if families would receive identification by Monday, lead investigator Michael Cunningham said "that's not going to happen."
The wait before informing the families will vary, depending on whether a medical exam is needed to confirm identity, he explained.
While the families were being briefed by the investigators, many parishioners across the province heard prayers in churches for the 17 lost crew and passengers.
Sunday mass took on a particular significance at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, a 154-year-old Roman Catholic parish in St. John's.
Msgr. John Wallis extended his condolences to the victims and their families.
"Let us pray for those who have died in the past week," Wallis told several hundred parishioners.
Residents from small communities along the Southern Shore of the Avalon Peninsula - where five victims lived - were awaiting word of the recovery effort.
Don Drew, mayor of Bay Bulls, said the loss of Derrick Mullowney, who was flying out to his catering job on the White Rose rig, was hitting the town hard.
Mullowney was among a group of five employees with East Coast Catering who were on the Sikorsky S-92, owned by Cougar Helicopters, when it went down on its way to two offshore rigs about 350 kilometres east of St. John's.
"Put yourselves in the families' position and you've just lost a loved one and know there's a possibility they're still in the helicopter, and you can't have closure until you know if they're there or not," said Drew.
"You're still clinging to the hope that you can put them to rest."

Organizations: Provincial Aerospace, Transportation Safety Board

Geographic location: ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland, Avalon Peninsula Bay Bulls White Rose

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