Police confirmed the discovery of the fourth and final missing person swept away during a catastrophic flash flood last month as officials Wednesday continued to express frustration over the dearth of cellular coverage in northwestern Nova Scotia.
The RCMP said the remains of Terri-Lynn Marie Keddy, 14, were discovered by a dog walker along the shoreline of Advocate Harbour, about 100 kilometres from where the vehicle she was travelling in was submerged in flood waters caused by epic rainfall during the overnight hours of July 22.
Terri-Lynn was a cancer survivor who had finished her last round of chemotherapy six months ago. She had recently been given the all-clear, said her stepmother Jacqueline Reid. “She was the most happy-go-lucky kid I’ve ever had the pleasure of loving,” she said in a statement to The Globe and Mail. “She was never not smiling. … She definitely saw sunshine and rainbows daily.”
Ms. Reid said her stepdaughter loved to bake and cook alongside her in the kitchen, and was extremely close with her sister and stepbrother.
The body of 52-year-old musician Nick Holland of Brooklyn, who was also travelling in the SUV, was found last week.
In a separate incident around the same time, two children were swept away while fleeing their Brooklyn home in a vehicle with their parents. The bodies of the six-year-olds, Natalie Hazel Harnish and Colton Sisco, were recovered at around the same time.
West Hants Mayor Abraham Zebian spoke of the sadness many in the close-knit community are feeling but also the solace that all four missing people’s remains have been brought home to their families. “Their names need to be remembered,” he said at a press conference in Windsor.
Advocate Harbour is on the edge of the Bay of Fundy, where the highest tides in the world fill and empty daily, influencing rivers and tributaries that wind inland near where Terri-Lynn was travelling with three other adults in an SUV on Highway 14 in Brooklyn.
“The sheer volume of water and the sheer force of that water coming through just – it’s never happened before around here. It just pushed objects so far, whether that be vehicles or trees or deceased persons, quite a distance and, over the course of time, that’s where she ended up,” said West Hants RCMP Sergeant Rob Frizzell.
A heavy rainstorm dumped three months’ worth of rain in one day in parts of the province, causing flash floods and widespread damage to homes, roads and bridges. In the area of West Hants, the province issued two emergency alerts to cellphones during the extreme rainfall, one at 3:06 a.m. Saturday asking people to shelter in place or call 911 if they couldn’t, and one at 3:41 a.m., ordering an evacuation.
Last week, several politicians in Nova Scotia raised concerns that poor cellular service had prevented residents from receiving emergency alerts in the area. In response, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland called for urgent action from Canada’s telecommunications regulator.
At a press conference Wednesday, Liberal MP for Kings-Hants Kody Blois said the cellular service is so poor that he was unable to take a phone call from Minister of Emergency Preparedness Harjit Sajjan at the emergency search and rescue headquarters in Brooklyn, an hour northwest of Halifax and seven minutes from a major highway.
“That’s unacceptable,” Mr. Blois told reporters. “When we start to see the impact of weather-related events – whether it’s fires, whether it’s hurricanes, whether it’s flash floods – we need to do better.”
At the press conference, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston offered condolences to the loved ones of Terri-Lynn and the families of the three others whose lives were lost in the flood. He pledged to fix the spotty cellular service “in a short period of time.”
“There are solutions. We just need to do them and I’ll be asking that those be done,” Mr. Houston said.
Canada’s telecommunications regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, is responsible for the National Public Alerting System, a federal, provincial and territorial system that enables emergency management organizations across Canada to warn the public about imminent or possible dangers such as floods, tornadoes, hazardous materials, fires and other disasters.
In a statement to The Globe, the CRTC, which is overseen by the federal government, said cellphone coverage and the public alert system play an important role in supporting Canadians’ safety, especially during natural disasters or other emergencies.
“The CRTC is continuing to monitor and support network investment to ensure Canadians have access to public alerts,” spokesman Paul Clusiau wrote, adding that federal, territorial and provincial governments all have a role to play.
François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, did not respond to a request for comment by late Wednesday afternoon.
Terri-Lynn’s mother, Natasha Keddy, asked that if anyone would like to make a donation, to send it to the IWK Health Centre, the children’s hospital in Halifax, in memory of her daughter.