Family remembers Alberta pilot who died fighting wildfire as big man with big heart
July 24, 2023 By Ritika Dubey, The Canadian Press
WHITECOURT, Alta. — A pilot whose helicopter crashed while he was fighting a forest fire in northern Alberta is being remembered as a big man with a big heart.
“He travelled and made an impact wherever he went,” Ryan Gould’s family said in a statement Friday shared by family friend Kassy Goodyer.
Gould was a skilled pilot, with family roots in aviation.
On Wednesday, Gould’s helicopter crashed near Haig Lake, 140 kilometres northeast of Peace River, Alta. The 41-year-old was flying the helicopter alone.
His death was the third in recent days involving
wildfire-fighting efforts in Canada.
Gould leaves behind his wife, Carlyn, and two young boys. The couple, who got married in 2009, had recently bought a farm — “a peaceful place to call home” — south of his hometown of Whitecourt, Alta., to set their roots after living in a few places in southern Alberta.
Gould’s co-workers called him a “panda” for his big stature and kind heart.
“His blue eyes and sense of humour are unforgettable,” the statement said.
Goodyer has set up a fundraiser on GiveSendGo to support Gould’s family.
A sole provider for his family, Gould spent “much time away from home flying the skies,” wrote Goodyer on the fundraiser page.
“(His wife) did bookkeeping from home, natural horsemanship and home-schooled their children on the farm while counting days until Ryan was home from a shift.”
She said Gould “was well loved” and will be missed by many.
Last week, Devyn Gale, a 19-year-old firefighter, died after a tree fell on her near Revelstoke, B.C.
Adam Yeadon, 25, died last Saturday while fighting a wildfire near his home in Fort Liard, N.W.T.
Transportation Safety Board spokesman Chris Krepski said the agency is investigating the Alberta crash.
He said an emergency locator transmitter signal was received Wednesday evening. The downed aircraft was in a marshy area, he added.
Krepski said the helicopter was operated by West Kelowna, B.C.-based Valhalla Helicopters, which declined to comment.
Politicians and Canadians offered their condolences to Gould’s family and friends.
“There are a lot of people across this country who have been stepping up during these very, very difficult forest fires, protecting their families, protecting their communities, protecting their fellow citizens,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.
“And to have lost three firefighters, or individuals helping out in fighting the fires, is heartbreaking.”
The family said they are heartbroken and appreciative of all the support they have received.
“The family is unprepared for the loss.”