A Calgary church is mourning the deaths of three of its parishioners after a boat capsized near Canmore on Sunday, claiming the lives of three of the four people on board.
The men were in the boat on Spray Lakes Reservoir, about 25 kilometres south of Canmore, when it capsized around 10 a.m. Sunday, according to RCMP. Geo Paily, 32, Kevin Sha Varghese, 21, and Liyo Mavalil Yohannan, 41, all died in the incident, while a fourth man, Jijo Joseph, managed to safely swim to shore.
RCMP confirmed Wednesday morning that a third body — Yohannan’s — had been pulled from the water late Tuesday afternoon, after Paily’s and Varghese’s bodies were located on Sunday and Monday, respectively.
The victims’ identities were confirmed by several cultural groups across Canada, including the Malayalee Cultural Association of Calgary, a community group for people from the Indian state of Kerala, and St. Mother Teresa Syro Malabar Catholic church.
The four men were close friends who worked together at a local auto shop and were on a fishing trip at the time of the incident, according to the priest at St. Mother Teresa, Father Thomas Kalariparambil. He said the group frequently went fishing in Paily’s boat in the Canmore area and all four men were active members of the church and the Malayalee community in Calgary.
“We were saddened to hear this news,” said Kalariparambil. “We were all shocked to hear about this incident; it’s a very unexpected thing.”
The priest said Varghese’s family immigrated to Canada several years ago and he mostly grew up in Canada alongside his brother and sister. Varghese was attending university in Toronto but came home to Calgary to visit family for the summer.
Paily came to Canada about three years ago, Kalariparambil said. He leaves behind a wife and a young child.
The cultural association and the church have organized a GoFundMe campaign to support Yohannan’s family. He leaves behind his wife, a young daughter and son, and his parents and sisters. The fundraiser describes Yohannan as the sole breadwinner for a family of 10.
“Liyo was the most kind-hearted, helpful, thoughtful and caring person we’ve known,” reads the fundraiser’s web page. “He spent most of his time with his family and friends, encouraging them to live an active lifestyle. His smile and voice echo everywhere he’s set foot.”
Yohannan moved to Canada from Qatar in 2020, initially settling in Quebec before moving to Red Deer, where he worked as a health-care aide. He then moved to Calgary where he lived for the past two months.
“The funds raised here are solely to ease the financial burdens of his funeral expenses, his family’s expatriation from Canada to India, aging parents’ medical expenses, education for his children and support for his wife,” reads the web page.
Joseph is recovering at home from the trauma of the fatal accident, said Kalariparambil.
“We cannot perfectly say that he is OK now, but he is getting OK,” he said.
Kalariparambil said the church is working to send Yohannan’s and Paily’s bodies back to their families in India after their autopsies are complete. A funeral is scheduled for Varghese on Saturday.
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