The Rev. Rob Dewey, founder and senior chaplain of the Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy, knows firsthand what it is like to provide assistance at a major air disaster like the crash in San Francisco.
He said news of the event brings back memories of his experience at the EgyptAir crash in 1999.
“My heart and prayers are with everybody who is out there. They’ve got their hands full for the next three or four days for sure,” he said.
Dewey responded to the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990, a disaster that claimed the lives of all 217 people on board. The Boeing 767 hit the Atlantic Ocean 60 miles south of Nantucket, Mass., on Oct. 31, 1999, after departing from JFK Airport.
Dewey said he was among four chaplains from the Eastern Seaboard who traveled to assist families at a center set up for them in Newport, R.I., under the provisions of the U.S. Family Assistance Act. The legislation provides help for relatives in the aftermath of an air disaster, he said.
“They don’t fly in chaplains any more unless they are overwhelmed,” Dewey said.
He said that he would go to San Francisco if needed but he doesn’t anticipate that would be necessary because of all the resources in that area. The Family Assistance Act covers domestic and international travelers from other countries, he said.
When the EgyptAir crash happened, the Family Assistance Act was relatively new. It helps with the travel, accomodations, food and other needs of grieving relatives, he said.
The different faith groups aboard the EgyptAir flight included Muslim, Jewish and Christian. For that reason, imams, rabbis, priests and ministers were summoned to care for the grieving. He recalled some 700 family members being present at a center set up for the grieving in Newport, R.I.
The same sort of faith and counseling issues are likely present among the grieving and worried relatives of those aboard the flight from South Korea that crashed in San Francisco. He expected that Christian and Buddhist counselors would be part of the relief effort.
“You would set up whatever faith resources people might require,” he said.