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Yellowknifers up for bravery awards
Matthew Grogono and Allan Shortt up for Governor General's award for role in Old Town plane crash

Cody Punter
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 17, 2014

Two Yellowknifers who pulled people from the smouldering wreckage of an Arctic Sunwest Twin Otter that crashed in Old Town in 2011 have been nominated for the Governor General's Medal of Bravery.

Matthew Grogono and Allan Shortt were first on the scene when the floatplane crashed into a parking lot across the street from the Bayside Bed and Breakfast on McDonald Drive on Sept. 22, 2011.

Together, Shortt and Grogono helped pull people from the plane, including pilot Trevor Jonasson and his first officer Nicole Stacey, who did not survive the crash. All seven passengers on the plane survived.

"Matthew just charged right in there. He took no stock in his own safety and I'm assuming that Mr. Shortt did the same thing," said Kevin Rowe, chair of honours and awards for St. John Ambulance NWT/Nunavut.

Gogono said he was both humbled and honoured by the nomination.

"The only reason I got nominated for the award is because the plane missed," said Grogono, referring to how the plane crashed 60 metres from Old Town Glassworks, where he works.

"One degree of difference and that plane would have landed on me. The important thing is that those people got out of the plane safely."

Rowe said Grogono and Shortt were nominated for the award by the RCMP after the circumstances of the rescue were discussed with the city and representatives from St. John Ambulance.

"These days, we don't see very much of that, so it's very important to recognize those people. This guy that you see and you have coffee with him every week. He put himself in danger to help someone else with no expectation of being compensated," said Rowe.

Marie-Pierre Belanger, media relations officer with the office of the secretary to the Governor General, said that it could take up to two years for a nomination to be processed. She said their office receives more than 200 nominations every year.

There are three different types of decorations for bravery handed out by the Governor General every year, with approximately 120 to 135 total recipients.

The official added that individuals who are awarded the Medal of Bravery are the first ones to be notified of their award if the nomination is successful.

Four individuals who administered CPR to passengers and pilots after being pulled from the wreckage received lifesaving awards from St. John Ambulance NWT/Nunavut last October.

Rowe said Shortt and Grogono were not nominated for those awards because the organization was worried it would hurt their chances of receiving the Governor General's award.

He said there is normally a two-year moratorium for nominating people for the awards after an accident has happened. However, the regional and national headquarters for the St. John Ambulance chapter agreed to make an exception, so that if Shortt and Grogono are not awarded the Medal of Bravery, they will be given lifesaving awards.

"They would automatically get it," said Rowe. "It's a no-brainer."

- with files from Laura Busch

NNSL photo/graphic

St John Ambulance Life Saving Awards recipients for 2011 old town crash

  • Sgt. Bruno Bernier, with the Canadian Forces, was one of the first trained first responders on the scene. He helped administer life support to the pilots, performing CPR on them for more than an hour. There was trouble getting more first responders to the crash site because of the spilled fuel, sparking power lines and general chaos. Once paramedics arrived, they stopped CPR.
  • Sherri Pellerin was working at a charter company in Old Town at the time of the accident. She heard the crash before the lights went out in the building. Everyone there scrambled to get on scene and Pellerin helped with first aid on the pilots.
  • Charlotte Overvold was working at Old Town Glass Works at the time of the crash. She was one of the first on the scene and helped provide first aid to passengers. She was traumatized by the event and ended up leaving and moving to Vancouver for a while after the crash. Her parents, Kathy Paul-Drover and Charles Overvold attended the awards ceremony, where Charlotte said she was ready to come home.
  • Brian McShane was working in an office building when he heard the crash and the lights went out. While everyone was running outside, he picked up the phone and called emergency services. Then he got in the car with other employees and went to the site. He has first aid training and he helped administer CPR before paramedics arrived. McShane said at the time of the award that he felt uncomfortable with being singled out as an award winner because there were so many people that helped, from bringing blankets for those administering CPR to kneel on to providing food and moral support and clearing the scene so ambulances could get in.

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