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Mayor dies suddenly on vacation in Florida


The community of Dauphin is trying to come to terms with the loss of the city’s mayor and strongest advocate.
Eric Irwin, 62, died while snorkeling in Key West, Florida, Nov. 24, with his wife, daughter and sister-in-law.
In a prepared statement on behalf of the family, Irwin’s daughter Erica said the condolences and offers of support received from around the world over the last few days are providing some comfort in a very difficult time.
“My father was the keystone of our family and a pillar in the community. He had a profound impact on many people’s lives. We would like to thank everyone who has reached out with your support, condolences and kind words. My father would be honoured, as we are. We would like to, in turn, express our deepest condolences to all of you for what is your loss as well,” Erica said.
“We are not lost, for we have all of you.”
An avid traveller with a passion for snorkeling and exploring, Erica said her father died doing what he loved.
Their last day together, she said, began with visit to Ernest Hemingway’s house and the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, prior to snorkeling on the Florida Barrier Reef.
“For those of you who knew my father well, you are aware that visits to museums almost always took most of the day. Driven by a deep intellect and insatiable curiosity, he would insist on reading every placard and description on display. This day was no exception. He provided me with a private tour of Hemingway’s house, telling me all about the great author. There was no need for a guided tour when my dad was around. He also greatly enjoyed the Mel Fisher museum since he had just finished reading a book about the life of the famous underwater treasure hunter,” Erica said.
It was on the reef that Irwin indicated he was feeling tired and wanted to return to the boat. Noticing he was have some difficulty swimming, Irwin was helped back to the catamaran by his wife Kim and soon lost consciousness. His sister-in-law, a nurse, took control of the situation and with the help of three “courageous bystanders” began CPR, Erica said.
As the group was an hour offshore, the Coast Guard was contacted.
“My aunt and bystanders worked tirelessly, performing CPR until the Coast Guard arrived. When they arrived, they took over, and did an amazing job trying to save my dad’s life. They transported us to land where we met the paramedics, who took over care of my dad and transported him to hospital,”she said.
“We are beyond grateful to the bystanders, Coast Guard, paramedics and all others who helped try and save my dad’s life. We will be forever grateful.”
Florida law requires any sudden death to be reviewed by the medical examiner’s office, which may delay Irwin’s body arriving home.
The official cause of his death is still unknown at this point.
“We are currently working with the insurance company and the funeral homes in Key West and Dauphin to get my dad home. Everyone is working hard to quicken the process, but it may take between four and six days. When our family is together in Dauphin we will begin the funeral arrangements. Once plans are in place we will provide the details,” Erica said.
Passion and
Irwin’s hard work and passion was demonstrated in his commitment to his family and community.
He was first elected to city council in 1998, the same year he became president of Dauphin’s Countryfest, which is the longest-running country music festival in Canada.
As mayor, Irwin’s leadership provided financial stability and numerous projects that offered growth to the community within budgetary constraints.
“He was a visionary in the growth to our community and what we should do,” said deputy-mayor Al Dowhan.
“He made sure his vision was accomplished. He was a man that got things done.”
Dauphin lowered its property taxes significantly and he was a champion for sustainable initiatives, including door-to-door recycling pickup and solar energy projects.
Irwin’s direction brought many projects in Dauphin to fruition, from fund-raising to facility planning, such as the completion of Countryfest Community Cinema and development of facilities at Selo Ukraina.
He provided leadership to many organizations in the community, most recently as president of Dauphin Consumer’s Coop and Dauphin’s Countryfest, plus he was an active member and former president of the Rotary Club of Dauphin.
“His passing has created a void in our community. But hopefully, we can be inspired by it and carry out his many visions,” Dowhan said.
Supporters and well-wishers took to social media Saturday to express condolences, including Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, Dauphin Consumer’s Co-op, the Dauphin Kings hockey team and Dauphin’s Countryfest.
Rob Waloschuk, producer for Dauphin’s Countryfest said Irwin was very involved in the community, because he wanted to make his community better.
In a press release from Dauphin Consumer’s Co-op, Irwin’s, “initiative, vision and untiring belief in the co-operative model has led significantly to the success of the Dauphin Co-op.”
Irwin had one year left in his term as mayor.
In consultation with the provincial government, city administration, will meet soon to develop a plan for the future.
This is a tragic event for his family, friends and the community, city CAO Brad Collett said, noting the City of Dauphin is making every effort to respect the family’s wishes at this time.
The flags at city hall have been lowered to half-mast.
Anyone looking for more information is asked to visit the Sneath-Strilchuk Funeral Service website at sneathstrilchuk.com.

Staff Writer