Witnesses say a red truck drove through the cemetery near Fort Smith’s Catholic church on Friday morning – knocking down nearly a dozen gravestones and crosses.
Dave Beamish was passing by the cemetery, which is located at the corner of Breynat Street and Simpson Street, when he came across the scene at 6:45am.
“The fence was knocked down, the gravestones and crosses were broken,” he said. Most of the gravestones have already been put back up.
“The fellow was still in the vehicle passed out,” he continued, adding paramedics roused the driver – who did not appear to be injured.
A submitted photo of a truck said to have driven through the graveyard in Fort Smith on Friday morning. Photo: Dave Beamish
Ray Currie, speaking on behalf of St Joseph’s Cathedral Parish, said at least 10 graves had been disturbed.
“[The truck] missed the corner and went through the fence,” he said. By the time Currie arrived at the cemetery around noon, the gravestones had been reset and the damaged fence removed.
“Most of the damage has been rectified by members of the community,” said Currie, adding a steady stream of people had stopped by to survey the damage and help out.
“It’s unfortunate that such an incident happened,” said Father Magnus Chilaka. Chilaka said the cemetery used to be the property of the Catholic church but is now maintained by the Town of Fort Smith.
Beamish said he’d like to see a stronger police presence in town at night.
“When I was young they were always stopping people and giving out tickets,” he said.
“I just went down to the store and a girl came up to me and said it’s getting awful here.”
Fort Smith RCMP said charges are pending in the incident.
“Officers, along with emergency medical services, attended the location to check on the driver’s wellbeing, an adult man,” said police in a statement.
“After determining the man was not in medical distress, officers took the man into custody. The man has been released and charges are pending.
“Alcohol is suspected to be a factor in the incident. As charges are not laid yet, Fort Smith RCMP cannot provide further information.”