Nfld. & Labrador

Focus on healing after young woman drowns in Sheshatshiu

People in Sheshatshiu are mourning the loss of a 20-year-old woman who drowned over the weekend, while officials are seeking to bring in counselling services to help residents cope.

'The community is kind of quiet and … you just can feel it,' says Etienne Rich

Volunteers used small boats to search Lake Melville for a young woman who was reported missing early Saturday and was found Saturday afternoon. (Submitted)

People in Sheshatshiu are mourning the loss of a 20-year-old woman who drowned over the weekend, while officials are seeking to bring in counselling services to help residents cope.

The woman's body was found Saturday afternoon, after dozens of searchers had scoured Lake Melville for any sign of her.

Etienne Rich, deputy grand chief of the Innu Nation, was among the searchers out in the boats Saturday.

He said one of the men on board got a call from his brother on shore, who thought he saw something in the shallow water on the rocks.

"We went along the shore and we saw this guy just waving at us and then we just went straight to him, and then he pointed out in the water and — and there she was," Rich said.

It is very devastating.- Etienne Rich

Rich said the location was between five and eight kilometres away from the community, along the shoreline.

The deputy grand chief said the community is reeling.

"It's still very shocking, like it seems like the community is kind of quiet and … you just can feel it," Rich said.

"The girl was well-known, she had a lot of friends and I know there's a lot of kids, lot of young people, being impacted with this tragedy."

Rich said he and Eugene Hart, chief of the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation, and Anastasia Qupee, Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation's social health director, are working on bringing counselling services to the community right away, especially for the young people and families.

"It is very devastating," he said.

Searchers were out as early as 3 a.m. on Saturday; the woman's body was found just before 3 p.m.

In a statement, Hart said it's a "tragic loss for our community and it will take some time for us to fully heal," adding the counselling supports are expected to be in place later this week.

Both Rich and Hart expressed their gratitude to volunteer searchers from their communities, as well as neighbouring Happy Valley-Goose Bay and North West River.

The Mary May Healing Centre was opened over the weekend for anyone who wants to be with others or to talk to someone.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has been tasked with investigating.

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