Deaths of young aviator and geologist described as great loss

Pilot Shawn Kitchen and geologist Julia Lane are both described as uniquely gifted individuals who elevated everyone they met.

Shawn Kitchen and Julia Lane were killed in a plane crash Tuesday near Mayo, Yukon

Pilot Shawn Thomas Kitchen, 24, and passenger Julia Lane, 33, died in a crash near Mayo Lake on Tuesday. They are remembered as bright lights in their communities and industries. (Facebook)

A young pilot and a geologist who were killed in a plane crash this week in Yukon are remembered as bright, energetic and talented people who elevated those around them.

Pilot Shawn Kitchen, 24, and his passenger, Julia Lane, 33, were killed Tuesday when the Cessna 208 Caravan Kitchen was flying for Alkan Air crashed between the Rackla gold project air strip and Mayo, Yukon. The plane was en route to Mayo at the time.

Lane, a graduate of the University of British Columbia and registered professional geologist in B.C., was appointed vice president of exploration for ATAC Resources Ltd. in 2015, and was a partner with Archer, Cathro, and Associates since 2012. She had been working in the Rackla area on an ATAC gold project.

"We are absolutely devastated by this tragedy. Julia was truly a rising star in the industry and a close friend," stated Rob Carne, former ATAC president, in a press release Thursday.

"Julia was beloved by everyone who had the opportunity to work with her and was deeply respected across the industry."

She was just a wonderful all-around person.- Mike Burke, Yukon Chamber of Mines

Mike Burke, president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, said he met Lane shortly after she began working in the territory.

Burke said she was a smart, talented geologist whose enthusiasm was infectious.

"She was just a wonderful all-around person," Burke said. "To know Julia Lane was certainly a blessing."

Burke said Lane was instrumental in moving ATAC Resources projects forward in recent years thanks to her skill, knowledge and leadership qualities.

Kitchen and Lane were killed when their Alkan Air C208 Caravan crashed near Mayo, Yukon. (Alkan Air)

Burke said the tragedy of her death in what is an everyday event for many workers in Yukon's resource industry — a flight on a small aircraft to a remote location — doesn't reflect negatively on the safety of the aviation industry in the territory.

He said workers in the industry do many hazard assessments in their line of work, and flying to a remote site is considered less hazardous than driving to the airport.

"There's many things we do in our life that are dangerous, but flying in an aircraft really isn't one of them," Burke said.

"They give us wonderful service and it's just unfortunate that this happened."

'Committed to everything he did'

In a statement circulated among Yukon media outlets, Alkan Air president and CEO Wendy Tayler stated Kitchen, who was from Whitehorse, had been with the company for more than four years.

Kitchen is also remembered for his time as a student with the Wood Street Music, Art and Drama program, and for his involvement in productions at the Guild Hall.

"The moment he walked into the room, you just knew this kid's got it," said Mary Sloan, Kitchen's teacher in music, arts and drama.

He was generous and loving and kind and just committed to everything he did.​​​​- Mary Sloan

"If I had every teacher in the world sit down and write a list of the ideal qualities for the best student possible, it would be Shawn," she said.

Sloan said Kitchen was a vibrant presence during his time with the theatre troupe, and the tight-knit community continues to reel over his sudden death.

"We're still connected a lot over Facebook and you can just feel the hurt from the other students and the ... disbelief."

Kitchen was kind to everyone and never let himself upstage anyone, despite his immense talent.

"There was nobody in the classroom that wasn't a friend of Shawn's," Sloan said. "He was generous and loving and kind and just committed to everything he did."

Officials with the Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash. They arrived in Whitehorse Thursday. They can't confirm how long their investigation will take.


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