The helicopter pilot who died in a wildfire fight west of Edmonton last week is remembered as a loving father and husband who had a passion for flying for decades.
Heath Coleman, 48, worked in a fire near Evansburg, Alta, on June 28 and died on June 28.
Coleman flew the Bell 212 alone when it crashed in a rural area near the line of fire. The Canadian Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the helicopter crash.
Jacob Forman, CEO of Yellowhead Helicopters, said: “He is absolutely passionate about flying, and he is naturally good at flying. “He is a very talented pilot.
“He didn’t cut corners… he was number one among pilots.”
Coleman and Foreman have been colleagues for nearly a decade. Coleman works as a pilot and trainer for a company headquartered in Prince George.
Forman said that Coleman is known by his nickname “The Heater”, leaving behind his wife and two young adult sons.
“He is a person who always has a bright smile on his face. He always has time to talk to people; he always gives people time.”
Forman said that Coleman was “very individual” and had a great sense of humor.
“Anyone who knows him knows his sideburns,” he said. “He always had a lot of ribs. So he was troubled a lot by it. But he didn’t let it stop him.
“He is a unique person. And he won’t let a little wordy or joking change his identity.”
“A catastrophic happened”
The 175-hectare wildfire near Fort Evan has been burning since June 22, when it triggered the temporary evacuation of nearby houses.
Forman said that when his plane crashed, Coleman was flying the crew.
He said that the weather was extremely hot that day, and the fire burned in the swampy area full of peat moss.
“As we understand, it is approaching, turning right and landing in the swamp,” Forman said. “There are many witnesses.”
Although the cause is still under investigation, Foreman believes that it was not caused by a pilot error.
Forman was at the scene with investigators. He said that the evidence found in the wreckage ruled out the pilot’s error, rather than pointing to a serious malfunction in the helicopter’s machinery. He said that the cause of the machine malfunction is still unclear.
“Because of his skills, it’s really hard to imagine [error] It worked,” Foreman said. “A key component of the aircraft must have happened catastrophically, and he will not have a chance to recover. ”
The fire has now been contained. Firefighters from all over the province continued to put out fires, looking for and putting out hot spots.
Coleman is also the base manager for Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing in Blue River, British Columbia. For more than two decades, he has been flying with a heli-ski company in every winter to help tourists travel through the mountains for adventure.
The company set up a fundraiser for Coleman’s wife and son.
The company said in a statement: “When we mourned the loss of a person we have known for so long and whom we cherish in our hearts, we are full of grief.”
“We express our deepest sympathy to Jennifer, Danton and Ethen, as well as Heath’s extended family and community of colleagues and friends.
“Heath sacrificed his life while protecting the people and property. We respect his highest mission of serving others.”
Coleman’s name will be added to the national memorial to the firefighters who died in Ottawa.
A statement from the Fallen Firefighters Foundation of Canada said: “Heath will be remembered as a loving husband, a good father, an excellent pilot, a colleague, and a friend of many people.”