A helicopter pilot has died fighting wildfires in northern Alberta’s Peace River Region.
The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada said a team of investigators has been deployed following an accident involving a Bell 205A helicopter operating during firefighting in the north part of the province.
TSB spokesperson Chris Krepski said the first emergency locator signal was received around 6:13 p.m. MDT Wednesday and confirmed the helicopter collided with terrain while ‘bucketing.’
“The accident occurred 43 nautical miles northeast of Peace River, in a place near Haig Lake,” he added, explaining that the aircraft was located in a “marshy area.”
Peace River RCMP say in a press release they received a report of a missing helicopter just before 7 p.m. MDT Wednesday. The crash site was located at approximately 8 p.m.
Responders were then flown to the site where forestry workers were doing CPR on the lone occupant of the aircraft.
The pilot was taken to hospital where he was declared dead.
RCMP have identified the individual as a 41-year-old male from Whitecourt.
It is with heavy hearts that we learn of this incident involving a helicopter pilot fighting wildfires in the Peace River region.
On behalf of all Albertans I want to offer our condolences to the family, friends, and all those who knew them. From the bottom of my heart I want… pic.twitter.com/WAXB3PaYJF
— Danielle Smith (@ABDanielleSmith) July 20, 2023
Krepski says the company operating the aircraft was Valhalla Helicopters.
The Kelowna-based company declined to comment on the incident.
Krepski adds the Transportation Safety Board deployed two investigators Thursday morning that are travelling to the site to gather information and assess the incident.
Premier Danielle Smith offered her condolences to the “family, friends, and those who knew them” Thursday morning. “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,” she wrote on Twitter. “This tragic loss is a reminder of how they put their lives on the line to keep us all safe.”
Minister of Forestry and Parks Todd Loewen echoed the leader’s sentiment in a statement.
“It is with great sadness that I learned about the death of a helicopter pilot who was working on the wildfires in the Peace River Forest Area. On behalf of Alberta’s government and all Albertans, I extend my deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the pilot,” he said.
“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. For that, we thank them.
“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. To see a life cut short in these circumstances is incredibly heartbreaking and Alberta’s government is incredibly thankful for those who continue to protect our communities from these devastating fires. We will continue to do all we can to protect and support the wildfire response teams.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also shared his condolences on social media.
I’m heartbroken to hear that another Canadian fighting wildfires has lost their life – my condolences to the family and friends of the brave pilot whose helicopter crashed in Alberta yesterday. We’ll never forget his service to his province and to our country.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) July 20, 2023
“We’ll never forget his service to his province and to our country,” he wrote, in part.
No further updates are expected as TSB investigators take over.
The man is the third individual in less than a week to perish battling wildfires in western Canada.
On Saturday, a firefighter was killed while battling a blaze near Fort Liard in the Northwest Territories while a 19-year-old woman was killed fighting a fire near Revelstoke last Thursday.