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Paramedic's death huge loss for community

FRIENDS and co-workers identified the Ashern man killed in a snowmobile crash near Moosehorn as Chris Arns, a well-known and highly regarded paramedic.

"It's a horrible loss," said his friend Dan Trakalo. "He has two young children and his whole family is from that area."

Arns was a friendly guy, someone who'd wrap a buddy in a hug instead of a handshake, said Trakalo, who is the union steward for Local 411 paramedics in Selkirk.

RCMP reported Thursday the Ashern man, 33, was killed and another man injured when their snowmobiles hit trees on groomed trails they were riding about 1:30 a.m.

Ashern and Moosehorn are neighbouring towns. Ashern is 190 kilometres north of Winnipeg and Moosehorn is 14 km further up Highway 6.

RCMP didn't identify Arns as the deceased, but word spread quickly among paramedics.

One paramedic said the two men had walked from the crash site to the highway, where they were met by paramedics who'd been called to the scene. He couldn't say how far the men had walked or who called for help.

Both men were talking when they reached paramedics. It was on the highway where Arns suddenly collapsed.

"A lot of people who attended at the accident knew him. The paramedics, obviously. They were very good friends," said Trakalo. It was devastating for them, he said.

Thursday, a critical-incident team of about six paramedics drove to Ashern to offer counselling to paramedics there, a crew of about 12 professionals.

Arns was pronounced dead in hospital. There is no word on the cause of death pending an autopsy, Trakalo, said.

RCMP identified Arns' companion as a 38-year-old Moosehorn man. He was said to be recovering in hospital from non-life-threatening injuries.

RCMP also reported both men were wearing helmets and alcohol was not a factor in the crash.

Arns is being mourned by his fellow paramedics across the province and by his wife, children and extended family.

The town of Ashern is as tightly knit as the paramedics themselves, said Trakalo, adding Arns was heavily involved in the community. He played recreational hockey on the "old-timers" team, even though he was only 33.

When winter melted into spring, he'd hang up his skates for his baseball mitt.

Arns was known for his compassion and dedication to a job that covered some of the province's rockiest terrain.

His job, with the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority, covered a territory that stretched south almost to Eriksdale, north to Moosehorn on Highway 6, west to the Narrows and east to Stonewall and Selkirk.

Arns' boss, John Stinson, CEO, Interlake-Eastern RHA, said, "Our EMS team regionally and provincially has suffered a great loss with Chris' passing. He will be remembered for his passion in the pursuit of what he believed in and for his compassion as a family-focused father, paramedic and community member. He will be missed by his colleagues, who have also lost a good friend."

Arns was a paramedic for eight years, said Trakalo, adding the two climbed through the ranks of the service together. "This is very traumatic," he said.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

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