Nfld. & Labrador

Passengers stranded in Deer Lake get Christmas dinner from residents

When 75 passengers got stranded in Deer Lake, N.L., on Dec. 25, Brian Snow helped pull the community together in something he calls Come From Away: Christmas Day.

Some 30 people brought food, cars to help WestJet passengers

Brian Snow wore a Santa shirt as he helped feed about 75 plane passengers stranded in Deer Lake, N.L., on Christmas Day. (Karen KayCee/Facebook)

When 75 passengers got stranded in Deer Lake on Dec. 25, Brian Snow helped pull the community together in something he calls Come From Away: Christmas Day.

The Salvation Army employee gave up Christmas with his family to organize efforts to feed the passengers, and he loved every second of it.

"It was my best Christmas Day ever. That's the only way I can put it," Snow told CBC News on Boxing Day.

The story is reminiscent of what happened in 2001, also in Newfoundland and Labrador, when townspeople rallied to welcome thousands of passengers on planes diverted to Gander because of the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S., the inspiration for the Tony Award-winning musical Come From Away.

In Deer Lake's case, the plane full of WestJet passengers left Toronto for St. John's late Christmas Eve when bad weather got in the way.

It circled St. John's for awhile, but left for Deer Lake when it was unable to land. Normally a short flight, going from the Newfoundland and Labrador capital to the town is more than 600 kilometres, a six-hour drive.

Within 45 minutes to an hour, we had leftover turkey dinner and gravy.- Brian Snow

Deer Lake also doesn't have a WestJet gate in the winter season, meaning the passengers had little help from the airline once they finally landed safely.

They were sent to the Holiday Inn Express in Deer Lake, where they got breakfast around 5 a.m. local time.

Come suppertime on Christmas Day, Snow got a message from the secretary at the Salvation Army in Deer Lake. She told him about the situation with the passengers, and he felt compelled to help out.

He put a call out on Facebook, and was met with quick reactions.

"Within 30 minutes we had sandwiches and cookies," he said. "Within 45 minutes to an hour, we had leftover turkey dinner and gravy."

Deer Lake residents chipped in with whatever food they had in their house to help feed the passengers stuck at the Deer Lake airport. (Karen KayCee/Facebook)

One resident even showed up with a pot of homemade rabbit stew.

"We fed most of them and they were very thankful," Snow said. "To me it was what Christmas is all about. The real meaning of Christmas."

Passenger David Power said it was a heartwarming act of kindness, and it didn't end with a meal.

"When we finished eating, they said as soon as you're ready, let us know and we'll take you to the airport. So my wife and I got our bags and came out to the front of the hotel to find a long line of cars."

Snow had arranged about 30 cars to drive people to the airport to catch their flights to St. John's.

Power was on his way from Texas to St. John's, on a long trip home for the holidays.

While some passengers were surprised at the number of people willing to lend helping hands, Snow said it's par for the course in his hometown.

"I think Deer Lake is the best for things like that," he said. "They always come to the front. They always step forward when there's a need."

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