Heartache in Yar­mouth

As a fam­ily grieves, a com­mu­nity also strug­gled with this tragic event


It’s al­ways been a mag­i­cal night. A fam­ily night. A com­mu­nity night.

A night where Christ­mas lights twin­kle and hol­i­day dec­o­ra­tions shim­mer. Where pa­rade par­tic­i­pants – bun­dled up for the weather, decked out for the sea­son – wave and smile to the spec­ta­tors lin­ing the route.

Where those watch­ing the pa­rade – mostly chil­dren and fam­i­lies, equally dressed for the weather in hats, mit­tens, gloves and scarfs – smile and wave in re­turn. You see peo­ple point­ing at the colour­ful floats. “It’s so pretty!” they ex­claim.

And when he ap­pears – Santa! – squeals of ex­cite­ment from kids re­place the hol­i­day mu­sic that’s been fill­ing the air. It’s just a per­fect fam­ily out­ing to ring in the sea­son. And one that re­peats it­self in com­mu­ni­ties ev­ery­where.

This is how Satur­day’s an­nual Pa­rade of Lights in Yar­mouth was sup­posed to be.

And it’s how the pa­rade started out.

But it’s not how it ended.

The Nov. 24 event that brings the com­mu­nity to­gether in cel­e­bra­tion in­stead has brought the com­mu­nity to­gether in heartache and grief fol­low­ing the death of four-year-old MaCali Cormier.

The young girl – who like so many oth­ers had been en­joy­ing the ex­cite­ment of the event – fell un­der a mov­ing float as the pa­rade was mak­ing its way on its fi­nal stretch along Starrs Road close to 7 p.m. She died from her in­juries, leav­ing a fam­ily dev­as­tated and an en­tire com­mu­nity grief-stricken and in dis­be­lief that an event that is sup­posed to bring so much hap­pi­ness ended in­stead in unimag­in­able sad­ness.

Many peo­ple – in­clud­ing par­ents and chil­dren – wit­nessed the tragedy as it un­folded. First re­spon­ders and oth­ers im­me­di­ately ran to­wards the chaotic scene to try to help, even be­fore the emer­gency ve­hi­cles had ar­rived.


On so­cial me­dia there has been an outpouring of con­do­lences for the fam­ily of the lit­tle girl, with peo­ple seek­ing ways to sup­port them. A spokesper­son for Huskil­son’s Funeral Home said there will be no charge to the fam­ily for the funeral. For peo­ple want­ing to make dona­tions to the fam­ily, a trust fund for McCali’s brother and sis­ter, Tessa and Matthew, has been set up at the funeral home.

Lo­cal res­i­dent Sarah Ro­bicheau is an­other whose heart and thoughts have been ex­tended to the fam­ily. Ro­bicheau is part of a non-profit group called An­chor for Hope, which has been reach­ing out and co­or­di­nat­ing with the com­mu­nity to make meals that can be de­liv­ered to the fam­ily in their time of grief. It’s some­thing that’s been done in the past to help other lo­cal fam­i­lies who have suf­fered the loss of a child.

“I lost two daugh­ters of my own. I had a still birth in 2012 and I had a child die from SIDS in 2014,” said Ro­bicheau, ex­plain­ing she and a friend, Jody Levac – who also lost a child to SIDS – cre­ated the non-profit group An­chor for Hope to pro­vide sup­port re­gard­ing child loss in the com­mu­nity. There are a lot of vol­un­teers from Yar­mouth Wes­leyan Church that also help, in ad­di­tion to their huge group of moms who help other fam­i­lies. But they’re also turn­ing to the com­mu­nity.

“Griev­ing is con­sum­ing and ex­haust­ing. Mak­ing meals are last on the list if re­mem­ber­ing to eat at all,” Ro­bicheau had writ­ten on the group’s Face­book page. “This fam­ily is griev­ing the loss of a child while also car­ing for oth­ers.”

In an in­ter­view on Sun­day, Ro­bicheau said the re­sponse to the re­quest has been won­der­ful. She said this was some­thing that was done for her in her time of grief and it was very mean­ing­ful.

“It’s just some­thing easy that we can do to take the bur­den off for the fam­ily,” she said. Meals will be de­liv­ered to Ro­bicheau’s home, and in turn de­liv­ered to the fam­ily.

“I’m proud to be from here,” she said. “The com­mu­nity def­i­nitely pulls to­gether, for sure.”


There are many ar­eas where peo­ple are pulling to­gether. The lit­tle girl was a pre-pri­mary stu­dent, at Cen­tral School and so sup­port was ex­tended on that front.

The Tri-County Re­gional Cen­tre for Ed­u­ca­tion im­ple­mented its Cri­sis Man­age­ment Plan whereby re­gional staff would be work­ing with schools to as­sess the needs of the stu­dents and staff. Mem­bers of the cri­sis man­age­ment team were in schools on Tues­day morn­ing to pro­vide sup­port.

The RCMP, mean­while, are en­cour­ag­ing first re­spon­ders and oth­ers to seek help in cop­ing with this com­mu­nity loss. Cpl. Dal Hutchin­son says the lit­tle girl was run­ning along­side the float when she fell un­der­neath it. She was trans­ported by EHS to the Yar­mouth Re­gional Hos­pi­tal, where a short time later she was pro­nounced de­ceased.

“I can’t even imag­ine how this has im­pacted the en­tire com­mu­nity. It’s so sad,” he said.

“As you can ap­pre­ci­ate, as first re­spon­ders we are ex­pected to deal with tragedy on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. In this case, where it in­volves a child at a fam­ily event, the im­pact is sig­nif­i­cant on ev­ery­one,” he said.

“I can’t stress enough the im­por­tance of peo­ple seek­ing help to man­age their emo­tions af­ter hav­ing wit­nessed this hor­rific tragedy. Peo­ple are in shock and feel­ing sad­ness for this lit­tle girl and her fam­ily. As time passes, these emo­tions can trig­ger other re­ac­tions, some of which re­quire a per­son to seek help pro­fes­sion­ally … Now’s the time to sup­port one an­other.”


This is the mes­sage Yar­mouth fire­fighter Lynn See­ley is also been spread­ing.

“In times like these we must all keep an eye on each other and reach out to our broth­ers and sis­ters. There is no shame in seek­ing help in any sit­u­a­tion. It doesn’t make you weak. We are here for each other,” he wrote in a Face­book post­ing on Satur­day night. Speak­ing with the Tri-County Van­guard on Sun­day, he said ini­tially his post was meant for the first re­spon­ders, but it is a mes­sage he hopes the en­tire com­mu­nity takes to heart.

See­ley said whether you are a mem­ber of the com­mu­nity or a trained first re­spon­der, there is no way to pre­pare for an in­ci­dent such as this dur­ing what is sup­posed to be a fes­tive event. He wasn’t at the pa­rade but is think­ing about his col­leagues.

“There were a num­ber of vol­un­teers that were tak­ing part in the pa­rade that had at­tended the scene be­cause they knew some­thing had hap­pened…We’re con­cerned for them,” he said.

De­brief­ing ses­sions were or­ga­nized for first re­spon­ders. And oth­ers, See­ley said, will need help as well.

“I have a step-grand­daugh­ter who was on the float be­hind and my daugh­ter mes­saged me say­ing she wit­nessed what took place. Her life will be changed for­ever,” he said, say­ing hear­ing the news of what hap­pened had moved him to tears.


It was also a very emo­tional scene at the Yar­mouth Re­gional Hos­pi­tal the night of the pa­rade, said Fraser Mooney, a spokesper­son for the Nova Sco­tia Health Author­ity.

“What hap­pened was very in­cred­i­bly up­set­ting for staff in the emer­gency de­part­ment, as it was for our en­tire com­mu­nity,” he said.

“When some­thing like this hap­pens in the com­mu­nity, many of our staff are also af­fected on a very per­sonal level. We know staff can be deal­ing with their own feel­ings of loss while pro­vid­ing health care and sup­port ser­vices to those most di­rectly af­fected.”

Mooney said their man­agers had been reach­ing out to in­di­vid­ual staff mem­bers who were work­ing Satur­day night to see what sup­port they can of­fer and there would also be de­brief­ing ses­sions. He also said the men­tal health team will be sup­port­ing the hos­pi­tal staff.

“At times like this, along with the for­mal sup­port of­fered, we en­cour­age staff to check in with each other to make sure their co-work­ers know there is help avail­able if need be,” he said, adding the hos­pi­tal’s men­tal health team is talk­ing about how best to sup­port the com­mu­nity.”

“In the mean­time, we want peo­ple to know the Men­tal Health Cri­sis Tele­phone Line is avail­able toll-free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to sup­port peo­ple who might be deal­ing with anx­i­ety re­lated to a trau­matic event like this: 1-888-429-8167,” Mooney said.


An­other group for whom this has been a very up­set­ting and emo­tional time are the or­ga­niz­ers of the an­nual Christ­mas pa­rade. On Sun­day Barb Firth, the pa­rade co­or­di­na­tor, posted on so­cial me­dia, “The Pa­rade Com­mit­tee is dev­as­tated by the trau­matic ac­ci­dent dur­ing the Christ­mas Pa­rade of Lights. We, along with the com­mu­nity, mourn the fam­ily’s loss and are pray­ing for ev­ery­one af­fected. The fo­cus is on com­ing to­gether as a com­mu­nity and help­ing this fam­ily through a very dif­fi­cult time.”

Dif­fi­cult, in­deed. Rev. A.D. (Bill) Newell of Yar­mouth – who over many years has helped peo­ple cope with tragedy – ac­knowl­edged that what hap­pened Satur­day evening was like a night­mare.

“It’s a tragic ac­ci­dent and the em­pha­sis has got to be on the fact that it was an ac­ci­dent,” he said. “I think we’ve just got to be there for one an­other, to love one an­other, to lis­ten to one an­other, to sup­port one an­other, and we’re try­ing to do that.”

Rev. Newell noted that many peo­ple were af­fected, in one way or an­other, by what hap­pened, in­clud­ing first re­spon­ders. For­mal de­brief­ings were planned.

Among the churches where the tragedy was on peo­ple’s minds the morn­ing af­ter the pa­rade was Yar­mouth Wes­leyan Church. Rev. AJ Plaizier, the church’s se­nior pas­tor, ac­knowl­edged there is not much any­one can say at such a tragic time.

“Peo­ple are look­ing for words, but there aren’t any,” he said. “You don’t have to have words. You don’t have to have the right thing to say.”

As for his mes­sage to his con­gre­ga­tion, he said, “I just gave them per­mis­sion to grieve. If that means griev­ing in si­lence, if that means kind of shak­ing your fist at God, that’s fine. That’s ap­pro­pri­ate. Just to cre­ate the space where peo­ple can have all the emo­tions that they need to have at this time.”

While he said he didn’t di­rectly know the fam­ily af­fected by the tragedy, he said in a small com­mu­nity such as this, when one fam­ily grieves, the com­mu­nity grieves with them.




Or­na­ments made by chil­dren adorn the Christ­mas tree out­side the Yar­mouth town hall. There is a sad­ness in the com­mu­nity since last week­end’s tragedy that im­pacted and changed many lives.

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