A helicopter pilot killed final week whereas preventing a wildfire west of Edmonton is being remembered as a loving father and husband with a decades-long ardour for flying.
Heath Coleman, 48, of Prince George, B.C., died June 28 as he labored to battle a hearth close to Evansburg, Alta.
Coleman was flying solo in a Bell 212 when it crashed in a rural space close to the fireplace entrance. The Transportation Security Board of Canada is investigating why the helicopter went down.
“He was completely obsessed with flying and was a pure at it,” mentioned Jacob Forman, CEO of Yellowhead Helicopters. “He was a really gifted pilot.
“He did not reduce corners … he was within the high percentile of pilots.”
Coleman and Forman had been colleagues for practically a decade. Coleman labored on the Prince George-based firm, serving as each a pilot and coach.
Identified by his nickname “Heater,” Coleman leaves behind a spouse and two younger grownup sons, Forman mentioned.
“He was a man who all the time had an enormous grin on his face. He was a man who all the time had an enormous grin on his face and he all the time had time to speak to individuals, all the time gave individuals the time of day.”
Coleman was “fairly the character” and had sense of humour, Forman mentioned.
“Anyone who knew him all the time knew him for his sideburns,” he mentioned. “He all the time sported an enormous set of chops. And so he bought bugged loads for that. However he did not let it did not deter him.
“He was a novel particular person. And he wasn’t going to let somewhat little bit of ribbing or kidding round change who he was.”
‘One thing catastrophic occurred’
The 175-hectare wildfire close to Evansburg has been burning since June 22 when it triggered a short lived evacuation of close by houses.
Coleman was doing crew runs when his plane went down, Forman mentioned.
The day was unseasonably sizzling and the fireplace was burning in a boggy space crammed with peat moss, he mentioned.
“It was on strategy, as we perceive it, in a right-hand flip in to land within the swamp,” he mentioned. “There have been a variety of witnesses to it.”
Whereas the trigger stays below investigation, Forman doesn’t imagine pilot error was accountable.
“Due to his ability set, it is simply actually laborious to think about that that performed a job,” he mentioned.
“It definitely seems that one thing catastrophic occurred to a essential element of the plane and he would have had no probability to recuperate.”
The fireplace is now categorized as below management. Firefighters from throughout the province proceed to work the fireplace, trying to find and extinguishing hotspots.
The wildfire that Coleman was dispatched to battle is now categorized as below management. (Mae Anderson/CBC)
Coleman was additionally base supervisor for Mike Wiegele Helicopter Snowboarding, primarily based out of Blue River, B.C.
He had flown with the heli-skiing firm every winter season for greater than 20 years, serving to to shuttle vacationers on adventures by way of the mountains.
The corporate has arrange fundraiser for Coleman’s spouse and sons.
“We’re crammed with disappointment as we mourn the lack of somebody we now have recognized so nicely for therefore lengthy and maintain very pricey to our hearts,” the corporate mentioned in a press release.
“We categorical our deepest sympathies to Jennifer, Danton and Ethen and Heath’s prolonged household and neighborhood of colleagues and buddies.
“Heath misplaced his life within the line of responsibility whereas defending individuals and property. We honour his service to others as the best calling.”
Coleman’s title will probably be added to the nationwide monument for fallen firefighters in Ottawa.
“Heath will probably be remembered as a loving husband, fantastic father, excellent pilot, co-worker and was a good friend to many,” reads a press release from the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Basis.