05/07/2012 09:05 EDT | Updated 07/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Alberta crash victims mourned at Gander funeral

Three members of a family who died in a head-on collision in Alberta were buried Sunday, as family and friends filled a central Newfoundland arena to grieve the loss of a father, a mother and their youngest child.

The tiny casket of two-year-old Benjamin Wheaton was flanked by those of his parents, Shannon Wheaton and Trena Thompson-Wheaton, as a hockey arena in Gander was filled with about 1,000 mourners.

The three were killed April 27 when their pickup was struck by a truck that was attempting to pass another vehicle on a highway south of Fort McMurray. The crash killed seven people altogether, and brought a new focus to a long-running call to twin Highway 63.

Three-year-old Timothy Wheaton, who survived the crash, was held in the arms of his grandfather.

Shannon Wheaton, who had grown up in the Gander Bay community of Frederickton, was a Pentecostal pastor who had moved with his family to Fort McMurray in 2010. Thompson-Wheaton was a nurse who had grown up in Gander.

Ivan Wheaton, who spoke at the funeral, said his brother was "very caring and loving and a wonderful person" who had a deep compassion for others.

"I'll always remember the comment that he made to me at his wedding when the backdrop behind his wedding cake began to fall over," he told the service.

"I managed to catch it just before it crushed his wedding cake. He looked at me and said, 'Now, that's why he's my best man,'" Wheaton said.

"I only wish I could have been this time."