Helicopter in firefighting operation crashes in northwestern Alberta, killing pilot
July 20, 2023 By Ritika Dubey, The Canadian Press
PEACE RIVER, Alta. — A helicopter crash in northwestern Alberta has resulted in the third death in recent days involving wildfire-fighting efforts in Canada.
“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 during a visit to Belleville, Ont., on Thursday.
“And to have lost three firefighters, or individuals helping out in fighting the fires, is heartbreaking. Every single time one of these first responders or firefighters steps up, they’re doing it to keep their fellow citizens safe and they have families as well who worry about them when they go out.”
RCMP said forestry workers were trying to resuscitate the pilot, who was the only one in the helicopter, when officers arrived on the scene near Haig Lake, 140 kilometres northeast of Peace River, Alta., on Wednesday night.
The pilot was taken to a nearby airport where he was declared dead, Mounties said in a news release Thursday.
They said the pilot was a 41-year-old from Whitecourt, Alta., but did not release his name.
Last week, Devyn Gale, a 19-year-old firefighter, died after a tree fell on her near Revelstoke, B.C.
Adam Yeadon, 25, died Saturday while fighting a wildfire near his home in Fort Liard, N.W.T.
Alberta Wildfire said on Twitter that it was mourning the loss of one of its team members.
“We know there are dangers in fighting wildfire, but it does not make a loss like this any easier.”
Transportation Safety Board spokesman Chris Krepski said two investigators were due to arrive to the remote scene on Thursday.
He said an emergency locator transmitter signal was received Wednesday at about 6 p.m. He said the downed aircraft was in a marshy area.
Krepski added it was operated by Valhalla Helicopters, based in West Kelowna, B.C., which declined to comment.
Todd Loewen, Alberta’s forestry minister, offered condolences to the pilot’s family, friends and colleagues.
“Today’s tragic news is a reminder that the heroes who put their lives on the line to protect us are men and women like you and me. They have families, friends, hopes and dreams,” he said in a written statement.
“While we mourn a life lost in the line of duty, Alberta’s brave first responders continue to put themselves in danger every day to protect Alberta families.”
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith also expressed her condolences on Twitter.
“It is with heavy hearts that we learn of this incident involving a helicopter pilot fighting wildfires in the Peace River region,” she said.
“From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the brave men and women who are working every day to keep our province safe on the front lines.”
As of Thursday afternoon, Alberta had 117 active wildfires, 17 of which were considered out of control.