A 41-year-old helicopter pilot from Whitecourt died July 19 while fighting wildfires near Haig Lake northeast of Peace River.

The man died after his helicopter hit the ground as he worked to deliver water, RCMP report.

Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) were deployed the scene to investigate.

Police did not release his name but it is known he worked for Valhalla Helicopters, which is based in West Kelowna, B.C.

The pilot was the lone person on board when the Bell 205A helicopter crashed into swampy terrain Wednesday, TSB spokesperson Chris Krepski said.

The first signal from the helicopter’s emergency locator transmitter was received at 6:15 p.m. from the crash site, 80 km east-northeast of Peace River, he added.

“(The helicopter) collided with the ground during firefighting operations,” said Krepski.

“It was during some phase of bucketing operations.

“I don’t know what phase it would have been, whether it would have been while it was picking up water or it was releasing water. That is typically what we would try to find out.”

The crash site is unreachable by road. RCMP were flown to the scene by helicopter, said RCMP Cpl. Troy Savinkoff, RCMP Media Relations.

Officers arrived around 8 p.m., about an hour after the first call to police came in, he added.

“RCMP were transported to the area where crews were doing CPR on the lone occupant of the helicopter,” he said.

“I believe it was other forestry workers who found him with the helicopter, and then landed and attempted to provide first aid.”

The pilot was taken to the Peace River airport where he was declared dead, Savinkoff concluded.

Alberta Minister of Forestry and Parks, Todd Loewen issued a statement July 20.

“It is with great sadness that I learned about the death of a helicopter pilot who was working on the wildfires in the Peace River Forest Area,” said Loewen, who is also MLA for Central Peace – Notley.

“On behalf of Alberta’s government and all Albertans, I extend my deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the pilot.

“While we mourn a life lost in the line of duty, Alberta’s brave first responders continue to put themselves in danger every day to protect Alberta families. For that, we thank them.

“Today’s tragic news is a reminder that the heroes who put their lives on the line to protect us are men and women like you and me. They have families, friends, hopes and dreams. To see a life cut short in these circumstances is incredibly heartbreaking and Alberta’s government is incredibly thankful for those who continue to protect our communities from these devastating fires. We will continue to do all we can to protect and support the wildfire response teams.”

The man is the third person die battling wildfires in Canada this year.

by Chris Clegg