HAPPY VALLEY GOOSE BAY, N.L. – A Labrador mayor somehow got on a snowmobile and reached a nearby highway to flag down help after he was shot in the lower face while hunting, his friends say.
Mayor John Hickey of Happy Valley-Goose Bay is in critical but stable condition after being airlifted for surgery Sunday in St. John’s.
“The adrenaline and sheer will power to get himself to the highway was remarkable,” said provincial Speaker Perry Trimper, who has known Hickey for 30 years.
The mayor was out alone Saturday with a shotgun checking rabbit snares just west of the town when he was wounded, he said.
Trimper said it took a “superhuman” effort for Hickey to reach the Trans-Labrador Highway for help, where a passing driver called an ambulance.
“Accidents happen, unfortunately, with firearms and this is what it looks like happened. He was by himself,” Trimper said Monday in an interview.
Trimper said Hickey, a former provincial Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, has not been able to communicate exactly what happened.
Town councillor Lori Dyson said a candlelight vigil is planned for Tuesday night at the town hall in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. It will be held near a Christmas tree just lit up by Hickey last week.
Trimper said it’s not clear how Hickey was shot.
“I guess John would be the only one to be able to tell us,” Trimper said. “He enjoys getting into the woods and that’s what he was doing.
“He was taken to the hospital right away and had a very difficult night Saturday night. Several of us were there with him through the evening.”
Hickey was flown to St. John’s on Sunday where surgeons operated.
Trimper said he and his wife Caroline had just spent Friday evening with Hickey and his spouse Peggie Best at an awards ceremony for firefighters.
“We couldn’t have had a better evening.”
Dyson is part of Hickey’s large extended family and said the youngest children know him as “Papa John.”
“There’s an enormous amount of concern from the community and so many prayers have been sent,” she said from Goose Bay.
“It’s only speculation of how exactly the accident happened. John is a Labrador man so he was out on the land for sure doing what he loves, hunting and checking his snares and stuff.
“Right now everything is certainly just focused on John’s recovery.”
Dyson said it was crucial that help arrived so fast. Hickey had recently pushed for better emergency response after public complaints.
“There was a very quick response from the ambulance which is now operated out of the hospital here as opposed to the defunct ambulance service that John was instrumental in getting out of town,” Dyson said.
“One of the nurses was saying that John inadvertently saved his own life.”
—By Sue Bailey in St. John’s, N.L.
Follow @suebailey on Twitter.