Pilot killed in Campbell River helicopter crash remembered as hard working and knowledgeable
'I miss him already. He was just so large, particularly in the helicopter industry'
The pilot of a commercial helicopter has died after a crash that struck an Indigenous carver's studio and narrowly missed the artist on Vancouver Island.
The locally owned, commercial aircraft went down on Spit Road along the Tyee Spit late Tuesday morning in Campbell River. RCMP were called to the scene around 11:30 a.m. PT.
The pilot was identified in a tweet by B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena as Ed Wilcock. The tweet, thanking first responders, has since been deleted.
Wilcock's friend and former business partner Bill Alder confirmed the death, saying the loss of Wilcock will leave a significant void in the local helicopter industry.
"I miss him already," said Alder. "He was just so large, particularly in the helicopter industry, I mean every single person in the local industry — in the helicopters — knew Ed."
"He was kind of the default person, if you needed to know something or know what was going on in the logging industry or what was happening, he knew it all. He had his finger on it all," he said.
Alder said he and Wilcock started the helicopter company, E & B Helicopters, together and ran it together for about 10 years before Alder left it to focus on his other company, Sealand Aviation.
"He was the E and I was the B," said Alder of the company the men founded together.
He said if anyone ever wanted to get in touch with Wilcock on Christmas Day, they knew they could find him by calling the office — a testament to his work ethic.
Mounties confirmed the pilot was the only person on board.
"On behalf of the Campbell River RCMP, I would like to express our deepest condolences to the family of the victim in this crash and to the staff and owners of the helicopter company," Const. Maury Tyre wrote in a statement.
Helicopter crash Campbell River Spit Rd approx 11:am Sept 24, 2019 <a href="https://t.co/RvxN6Mt1fl">pic.twitter.com/RvxN6Mt1fl</a>—@GenealogyBC
The B.C. Coroners Service and WorkSafeBC are investigating. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has also been notified.
"Right now, our investigators are gathering information and determining next steps," TSB spokesperson Dean Campbell told CBC News.
There are several seaplane and helicopter hangars along the spit, with a wharf and an RV park nearby. The area was closed to the public for an hour as RCMP investigated, but the statement said the spit has since reopened.
Rotor blade sliced through the roof
Keshia Malone says her great-uncle, artist Bill Henderson, was in his carving shed and happened to get up from the chair where he normally works when the helicopter crashed into the structure.
She says the chopper struck the top corner of the shed right above the chair, adding the rotor blade went through the roof.
Malone says Henderson is feeling shaken up and emotional but is otherwise all right.
Henderson is in his late 60s and is a member of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation. His masks, bowls, paddles and other carvings are collected around the world.
With files from Rafferty Baker, Adam Van Der Zwan and CHEK News
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