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Fatalities rare in helicopter industry, pilot says

Nov. 9, 2011, Kapuskasing, Ont. - Friends and co-workers are mourning the loss of two Tembec employees and a pilot who were killed in a helicopter crash in Kapuskasing.


November 9, 2011
By CBC News

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Passengers Chad McQuade, 37, was a forestry technician, and Dan Simis, 47, was a forester. The pilot — 39 year old Greg Sawyer of North Bay — also died in the crash.

The trio was conducting a forest survey for Tembec on Wednesday when the chopper went down.

McQuade and Simis had been with the company since the 1990s.

“They were very well respected,” said Val Rita resident Raymond Degenais, who worked with the two men.

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“We were hoping to have them around for a very, very long time. To have this kind of accident happening to them … it’s not something you want to see happening to anyone.”

Tembec said grief counsellors have been brought in to help co-workers and friends deal with the loss.

Degenais said Simis was married and McQuade had a wife and child.

Friends and co-workers are still reeling from the news.

“I'm sure myself and I speak for most of the guys in the forestry, the department, they will be very well missed,” Degenais said.

“I would have seen Chad being the next big boss because of his education and everything else, and (he was) outgoing with the guys.”

He said Simis was also outgoing and funny.

“He's the type of foreman that you like to work for.”

The two men flew regularly as part of their jobs at Tembec.

Pilots became fast friends

The pilot of the helicopter learned to fly through Canadore College. Greg Sawyer worked for several years for Sunrise Helicopters, previously known as Gateway Helicopters.

Marcus Vogel, who was also a pilot there, said he and Sawyer became fast friends flying in and out of bush camps.

"He'd always used to give you the one-fingered gun, with the one thumb up and [would say] ‘how ya doing, how's it going,’” he recalled.

“That's how I always remember Greg, just being happy."

Greg Sawyer leaves behind a wife and child.

Vogel, who is now a pilot in the Collingwood area, said the helicopter industry is shocked by this crash because, unlike airplane accidents, fatalities are rare.

Vogel also said normally there is some clue as to why the crash happened.

"We're kind of shocked because we don't know why it was so sudden,” he said.

“There's no indication of anything, so nobody knows right now."

Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board have a lot of work ahead said spokesman Ewan Tasker.

"We'll have a look at everything on the machine — the engine, the instruments, the fuel, everything,” he said.

Tasker said the wreckage of the helicopter will be taken back to a lab to be studied in the next few days.

But he said a report on what caused the crash is likely months away.


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