'He loved life': Family remembers pilot who died in Carp plane crash

According to his family, Neil Spriggs was more than just a pilot and a successful businessman — he was a loving, passionate father who mastered everything he set his mind to.

Neil Spriggs, 59, died after his small plane crashed in rural west Ottawa Wednesday

Neil Spriggs flies a gyroplane over Almonte, Ont. The 59-year-old died on Wednesday after his plane crashed in a wooded area near Carp Airport. (Submitted by Alastair Spriggs)

Kathy Spriggs says she saw a few texts pop up on the family's iPad Wednesday afternoon, asking if her husband was OK.

There had been a plane crash at a nearby airport. 

Her husband, Neil, had been on a conference call all morning and had made himself an omelette for lunch just before heading out.

"He just said to me, I'm going to pop to the hangar quickly," she recalled. "I kind of looked at my watch and thought, you know, he should be home by now."

The 59-year-old from Ottawa's rural Kinburn community was the pilot who died Wednesday in a small airplane crash in a wooded area near the Carp Airport.

Police said the pilot, who was alone in the Blackshape BS100, was found dead at the scene. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating. 

He was a doer.- Kathy Spriggs, Neil Spriggs's wife

Neil Spriggs's family said he'd called out on the radio that he had an engine failure, and that eyewitnesses saw the plane go down quickly.

"My mom called me and said there's been an accident," said his daughter Krista Spriggs. "With it being so sudden, I think there's a lot of denial and disbelief." 

"It doesn't feel like he's gone."

A man of many hobbies

Neil was the CEO of Nanometrics, a company that monitors and develops seismic technology. 

He was also a man of many hobbies — not just flying planes but also sailing and landscaping — and was someone, his wife said, who "poured his heart into everything." He'd travelled to more than 53 countries, obtained a degree in oceanography, and sailed from Texas to Grenada with his son.

He was, as his family put it, a jack of all trades — and a master of all, too.

"He always made a joke about how didn't have many friends, which is absolutely ridiculous," said his son Alastair Spriggs, who described his dad as a mentor who shared his knowledge with many people.

"He had just so many passions that he devoted his life to, that he couldn't keep up with everybody."'

Neil and his son Alastair sailed from Texas to Grenada. (Submitted by Alastair Spriggs)

Neil started flying recreationally in 2009, and got his private and commercial pilot's licence a few years after that. 

He was an extremely experienced pilot, said Krista, with his instructors ready to sign off on his licence after he only clocked in a few hours.

He loved the sky, but he was also in some ways afraid of heights.

"Interestingly enough, he hated roller-coasters," said Krista.

Family everything to Neil

Family was everything to Neil, his wife said.

She said he'd taken up horseback riding a few years ago, just to spend more time with her, so for their 30th anniversary she bought him a horse.

The couple rode five to six times a week together, and he fell in love with it. Kathy recalled a conversation they'd had just a few days ago about his numerous hobbies.

"We said, you know, with COVID and everything, what if you had to give up [something]?" she recalled. "He said, 'I could get rid of the boat, and I could get rid of the planes ... but I couldn't get rid of my horse."

"He will always have my heart for that one."

Neil took up horseback riding a few years ago to spend more time with his wife and soon fell in love with it. (Submitted by Alastair Spriggs)

'Our visionary,' says co-worker

Ian Talbot, chief financial officer at Nanometrics, worked with Neil since 2006 and called him both a colleague and a friend.

"He was our visionary," said Talbot. "Neil was one of those guys who didn't just give our customers what they wanted — he really sought to understand what they needed."

Talbot said Neil had been with the company since 1992 and was instrumental to its success, helping it grow from a bare-bones operation of 10 employees to one that employs 170 people across four offices in Kanata, Calgary, Houston and Beijing. 

The company was voted among the best managed companies by Deloitte in 2019.

"The fact that other people in the area don't know what we do is actually a testament to Neil because of his humility," said Talbot. "He never sought the limelight."

"I want him to be remembered as more than just an extremely successful businessman," said Alastair. "I just want him to be remembered as someone who just tried to share everything with as many people as he could."

"He was a doer," added Kathy. "He loved life."

From left to right, Krista, Neil, Kathy, and Alastair Spriggs. Neil's family says he was a jack of all trades and a master of all. (Submitted by Alastair Spriggs)

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now