In what has already been called the worst fire season on record, the pilot of a Bell 205A helicopter died on July 20 when his aircraft crashed in swampy terrain while taking part in a firefighting operation near Haig Lake, around 56 nautical miles northeast of Peace River, Alberta.
Ryan Gould, a 49-year-old man from Whitecourt, Alberta, was the sole occupant aboard during the water-bucketing operation. The crash site was unreachable by road, with members of the RCMP transported to the crash site by helicopter. The Transportation Safety Board has been mobilized.
“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,” said TSB spokesman Chris Krepski. “That is typically what we would try to find out.”
The helicopter is owned by Valhalla Helicopters of West Kelowna, British Columbia.
“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,” said Alberta’s minister of forests Todd Loewen. “For that, we thank them.”
The death of the pilot marks the third loss of a firefighter’s life in the space of one week in Western Canada.