Pilot who died in crash was a skilled flyer, community-minded, says friend

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A Port Alberni helicopter pilot killed in a crash on the North Island Wednesday was a skilled pilot, hard worker and a family man who was quick to volunteer in his community.

A Port Alberni helicopter pilot killed in a crash on the North Island Wednesday was a skilled pilot, hard worker and a family man who was quick to volunteer in his community.

A long-time friend said Brent Fedirchuk was the pilot who died after the helicopter went down north of Sayward while hauling cedar blocks.

“He was absolutely the best friend a person could have,” said Paul Robertson, who owns Port Cedar Products in Port Alberni and knew Fedirchuk for decades.

He said Fedirchuk, believed to be in his mid-40s, leaves behind a wife and a young son, and his death is sending shock waves through the industry and community.

The Transportation Safety Board, Campbell River RCMP and the BC Coroners Service are investigating the crash.

Robertson said his friend was working with Parksville-based Kestrel Helicopters hauling cedar blocks out of a remote cut near Sayward when the accident happened.

“He was one of the best in the business,” said Robertson.

Robertson said the circumstances of the crash are unclear, but word on the ground was the helicopter fell up to 300 meters and landed upright. Fedirchuk was dead when first responders arrived, he said. “Guys on the ground said they just heard a pop,” said Robertson.

The TSB has not determined the cause of the crash.

Fedirchuk started out working the green chain pulling off cedar at the Somass Mill as a 20-year-old, said Robertson.

He said he took Fedirchuk out to to work with him one day cutting cedar and having the wood flown out by helicopter. “He just looked up and said: ‘That’s what I want to do,’ ” said Robertson.

“Brent saved his money, got his pilot license and has been with Kestrel ever since,” said Robertson.

Fedirchuk also piloted helicopters fighting forest fires in 2019 and last year. “I’ve flown with him many times over the years and he was skilled and always safe,” said Robertson.

Fedirchuk was quick to step up for Port Alberni and was named volunteer of the year in 2016 and a board member of Funtastic, a group that organized sporting events.

“He was just a great guy with a lot of friends,” said Robertson. “He was always there to help out.

“He was one standup dude, I can tell you that.”

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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