Army comforts grieving families, relief workers

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Alaska Airlines Flight #261

Immediately following news of the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight #261 on January 31, The Salvation Army dispatched disaster services personnel to Point Mugu, near the crash site, and grief counselors to the San Francisco and Seattle/Tacoma airports.

Salvation Army Majors Neil and Kathie Timpson and a Lutheran minister were the first grief counselors to arrive at San Francisco Airport. The Timp-sons heard the news just after 5:00 p.m. while in their car. By 6:00, they were in the airport counseling a woman who had lost her husband. Ultimately, they helped get her past a barrage of reporters and to the airport parking garage, where members of Alaska Airlines emergency response team were able to drive her home.

The Timpsons, Major Debra Shrum, Captain Moses Reyes, Lt. Phil Smith and San Francisco City Program Coordinator Joye Storey stayed as long as needed.

Salvation Army teams also assisted grieving families and friends at the Seattle/Tacoma Airport, working with Alaska and Horizon Airlines personnel through the night.

Salvation Army staff worked closely with the lead chaplain at the on-site morgue at the Pt. Mugu Naval Station to minister to the needs of grieving individuals there, including disaster responders such as Coast Guard, Navy, fire and sheriff’s department personnel and the numerous civilian boat crews volunteering their assistance in the search efforts.

“As hope of finding survivors fades, our focus shifts toward ministering to the spiritual needs of all involved. Hot meals and drinks are still important, but these people are hurting. They are exhausted. They are grief-stricken. They need emotional support and compassion,” said Tom McSherry, Western Territory emergency and disaster services coordinator.

Major David Dalberg, national emergency and disaster services coordinator, met with the National Transportation Safety Board’s family assistance section to help coordinate The Salvation Army’s role with other agencies in responding to this tragic event.”

At the request of Ventura County emergency responders, The Salvation Army deployed two mobile kitchens to Point Mugu by 7:00 p.m. Canteen teams worked through the night providing food and beverages to the search and rescue workers at the scene of the crash. With nine to ten service personnel on site and 40 to 50 on call, assistance was provided as long as needed.

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