Mom seeks closure at fatal plane jump inquest

The mother of a 20-year-old Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, man who jumped to his death from an airplane last year has told a coroner's inquest about the hours leading up to the fatal flight.
Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, is located about 850 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. Julian Tologanak is believed to have jumped near Umingmaktok, about 200 kilometres towards Cambridge Bay.

The mother of a 20-year-old Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, man who jumped to his death from an airplane last year told a coroner's inquest Monday about the hours leading up to the fatal flight.

On April 15, 2009, Julian Tologanak was on board an Adlair Aviation charter flight between Yellowknife and Cambridge Bay when he forced open the door of the small twin-engine aircraft and leaped from an altitude of about 7,000 metres.

It's believed Tologanak jumped somewhere near Umingmaktok, less than 200 kilometres southwest of Cambridge Bay. Searchers couldn't find his body.

"For a mother to lose a child is nothing nobody ever should go through," his mother, Helen Tologanak, told CBC News in an interview Sunday evening from her home, surrounded by family members and photos of Julian.

"I want to find out what happened and why it happened."

Wielded knife in room: friend

Julian Tologanak was flying home from a Yellowknife hockey tournament on April 15, 2009, when he appeared distressed and jumped out of the plane. His body has not been found.

After the six inquest panellists were chosen in Cambridge Bay on Monday, they heard testimony from the mother, who said Julian was in Yellowknife for a hockey tournament.

When the tournament was finished, he pulled his bags off a scheduled flight back to Nunavut and instead went to a Yellowknife hotel, Helen Tologanak testified.

A friend, James Aknavigak, testified that Julian Tologanak showed up at the Nova Court, where he and his family were staying during the tournament.

Aknavigak said on the evening of April 14, there was an incident in which Tologanak stood in the kitchenette of the hotel room, holding some kind of knife. He did not threaten anyone, Aknavigak said.

The RCMP were called and Tologanak was arrested on a mental-health warrant and taken to Stanton Territorial Hospital. Police have said Tologanak showed signs of depression.

Helen Tologanak testified that she knew her son was distressed when he phoned her from Yellowknife, but she never heard from him after that.

"I knew he was in distress, we just kept phoning each other," the mother told the inquest panel. "He just kept saying, 'Hi Mom, hi Mom.'"

The elder Tologanak said she then tried to get a pay advance from her employer so she could buy a First Air ticket for Julian.

Flight was family favour: mother

When that failed, Tologanak said she asked Paul Laserich of Adlair Aviation to help get her son get back to Cambridge Bay, as a favour to the family.

Julian Tologanak was discharged from hospital on the morning of April 15, and he then boarded the Adlair flight.

The inquest panel is expected to hear from about a dozen witnesses, most of whom were involved in events prior to Tologanak's death.

Three to five days have been scheduled for the inquest, but the panel will take as much time as necessary to hear all the testimony. Afterward, the panel will make recommendations to prevent similar incidents.

"We look forward to hearing what all happened in the last day or two of Julian's life," Helen Tologanak said in the interview.

"We want some answers, and we just ask that everyone tell the truth, and we maybe have a little bit of closure."