This group walked 30 km to remember those who died along North West River Road

·2 min read
Karen Rich/Facebook
Karen Rich/Facebook

A group of Labrador residents took a long walk on Monday to remember those who have died along North West River Road in years gone by.

The trek was about 30 kilometres, starting from the outskirts of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and winding north to its end in Sheshatshiu.

"For me it was 11 hours, the others got there early," organizer Karen Rich told CBC News on Friday.

"At first it was easy, but after we passed 9 Mile it got harder."

Nine Mile is a resource access road along the stretch of highway.

Rich said her father died at that location while gathering wood to heat the family home.

Garrett Barry/CBC
Garrett Barry/CBC

"He wanted to get more wood, and that's when he fell. He passed away there. He was a good father, to me and my brother, but my sisters don't remember him," she said.

"I wanted to do something for him, to remember him."

North West River Road, also known as Route 520, is dotted with other memorials along its passage — crosses and religious statues stand in memory of those who died there.

Anastasia Qupee joined Rich on the walk. She lost family members in a car crash and said she thinks the driver lost control due to icy conditions on the road.

"My aunt was very involved in the community. She was one of the leaders within her group and also played a big role with church events and other community events," said Qupee.

"One of the things that is also sad about it is we don't have a lot of elders in our community, and here she was, she played a big role in the community."

Garrett Barry/CBC
Garrett Barry/CBC

Qupee said the road is unsafe and that there needs to be better upkeep. She wonders if repairs and maintenance could have prevented previous fatal accidents.

Chief Eugene Hart of the Sheshatshiu First Nation told CBC News there have been accidents and deaths, some due to natural causes, on North West River Road for many years. He said the road is dangerous no matter the time of year and there's a need to upgrade it.

"That road is very busy," he said.

"I'd like to see more signs and streetlights. There's no street lights when you go on that highway. The only light you have is your headlights."

The walking group gathered once again on Friday to hang a banner in the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation office.

The banner bears nine photos and 11 names from people who have died along North West River Road.

Rich intends to make the memorial walk into a new yearly tradition.

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