Pilot killed fighting Alberta wildfire remembered for big personality, remarkable talent | CBC News

A helicopter pilot who died closing week whereas combating a wildfire west of Edmonton is being remembered as a loving father and husband with a an extended time-long ardour for flying.

Heath Coleman changed into a mature pilot with extra than 20 years of abilities in the lend a hand of the controls. He died when his chopper crashed west of Edmonton late closing month. (Mike Wiegele Helicopter Snowboarding/Facebook)

A helicopter pilot who died closing week whereas combating a wildfire west of Edmonton is being remembered as a loving father and husband with a an extended time-long ardour for flying. 

Heath Coleman, 48, of Prince George, B.C., died on June 28 as he labored to war a fireplace approach Evansburg, Alta.

Coleman changed into flying solo in a Bell 212 when it crashed in a rural rental approach the fire entrance. The Transportation Security Board of Canada is investigating why the helicopter went down.

“He changed into absolutely hooked in to flying and changed into a natural at it,” said Jacob Forman, CEO of Yellowhead Helicopters. “He changed into a in fact proficient pilot.

“He didn’t lower corners … he changed into in the tip percentile of pilots.” 

Coleman and Forman were colleagues for almost a decade. Coleman labored on the Prince George-based mostly completely company, serving as both a pilot and trainer. 

Identified by his nickname “Heater,” Coleman leaves in the lend a hand of a wife and two younger adult sons, Forman said.

“He changed into a man who constantly had a gargantuan grin on his face and he constantly had time to focus on with folks; constantly gave folks the time of day.” 

Coleman changed into “moderately the personality” and had a factual sense of humour, Forman said. 

“Anybody who knew him constantly knew him for his sideburns,” he said. “He constantly sported a gargantuan region of chops. And so he got bugged loads for that. Nonetheless he didn’t let it didn’t deter him. 

“He changed into a clear particular particular person. And he wasn’t going to let somewhat of little bit of ribbing or kidding round alternate who he changed into.” 

‘Something catastrophic came about’

The 175-hectare wildfire approach Evansburg has been burning since June 22 when it precipitated a short lived evacuation of nearby homes. 

Coleman changed into doing crew runs when his plane went down, Forman said.

The day changed into unseasonably scorching and the fire changed into burning in a boggy rental filled with peat moss, he said. 

“It changed into on potential, as we impress it, in a factual-hand turn in to land in the swamp,” Forman said. “There were a quantity of witnesses to it.” 

While the cause stays beneath investigation, Forman does now not imagine pilot error changed into responsible.

Forman changed into on the scene with investigators and said proof changed into stumbled on throughout the wreckage that ruled out pilot error, as an different pointing to critical failure throughout the machinery of the chopper. It be unclear why the machinery failed, he said.

“Thanks to his skill region, or now not it is factual in fact laborious to imagine that [error] done a job,” Forman said. “It undoubtedly appears to be like to be that one thing catastrophic came about to a critical part of the plane and he would own had no chance to enhance.” 

The fireplace is now classified as beneath place watch over. Firefighters from across the province continue to work the fire, shopping for and extinguishing hotspots.

The wildfire approach Evansburg, Alta., that Coleman changed into dispatched to fight is now classified as beneath place watch over. (Mae Anderson/CBC)

Coleman changed into also unsuitable manager for Mike Wiegele Helicopter Snowboarding, based mostly completely out of Blue River, B.C. He had flown with the heli-snowboarding company every chilly climate season for additional than two an extended time, helping to shuttle tourists on adventures by the mountains. 

The company has region up a fundraiser for Coleman’s wife and sons. 

“We are filled with unhappiness as we mourn the shortcoming of any individual now we own known so well for goodbye and serve very dear to our hearts,” the company said in an announcement.

“We boom our deepest sympathies to Jennifer, Danton and Ethen, and Heath’s prolonged family and community of colleagues and chums.

“Heath misplaced his existence in the line of accountability whereas defending folks and property. We honour his provider to others because the very most sensible calling.”

Coleman’s name will likely be added to the nationwide monument for fallen firefighters in Ottawa. 

“Heath will likely be remembered as a loving husband, very unbiased correct father, astonishing pilot, co-employee and changed into a chum to many,” study an announcement from the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

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