KITCHENUHMAYKOOSIB INNINUWUG, ONT. - The victims of a tragic house fire in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug have been laid to rest with the entire community coming together to bring them home and say goodbye.
Funeral services were held Friday for Geraldine Chapman, 47, and her daughter, six-year-old Shyra Shadara Taylor Bella Chapman, as well as foster children Angel Kenisha McKay, 12, Karl Jovon Cutfeet, nine, and Hailey Ocean Jenna Chapman, seven, who were lost in a house fire on May 2.
Prior to the service, a wake was held at the Sioux Lookout Calvary Baptist Church last Thursday.
“It is a very difficult time for the community and for all of us who are trying to help,” said Mathew Hoppe, Independent First Nations Alliance CEO, who attended the wake in Sioux Lookout. “You can feel the deep sense of shock and loss from the family.”
On Thursday afternoon the remains were transported back to Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug where Chapman and her children were laid to rest.
“This has been the saddest and most difficult day since the fire,” said Chief Donny Morris. “Watching them bring in the five caskets one after the other was incredibly painful. You can see and hear the heartbreak of the families.”
More than 300 people attended the funeral service that was held at the local hockey arena. Morris said planning the funeral service has been a genuine community effort, with mourners coming in from neighbouring communities to support the people of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug.
“Since the fire, we have been working almost 24 hours a day handling the aftermath of the tragedy, providing support to the community, working with the investigative team and making funeral arrangements,” Morris said. “The last few days before the funeral we were particularly busy ensuring that everyone who arrived had food and a place to stay.”
“I am truly amazed by how many people came together to help in our time of need,” Morris continued. “We are particularly grateful to many of the youth in the community who stepped up and took part in the coordination of service, despite the fact they are grieving the loss of their schoolmates as well.”
In the aftermath of the fire, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug declared a state of emergency.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation and Morris said the community will continue to support one another through the loss.
“The community will be looking deeply at the situation and will review in detail the circumstances under which the fire occurred,” Morris said.
“We will be looking at ways to prevent this kind of tragedy from ever happening again. But that conversation will be saved for another day. It has been a long, hard journey for the families and for our community. We are thankful for the beautiful service and we are relieved that the family is finally home.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the community and has raised more than $29,000.