A helicopter pilot from B.C. and a skiing guide from New Zealand have been identified as two of the four people killed in a crash north of Terrace, B.C., last week.
Pilot Mark McGowan and guide Lewis Ainsworth were named Monday in a joint statement from Northern Escape Heli-Skiing and Skyline Helicopters that expressed condolences to the victims’ families and friends.
Three people died at the scene of the helicopter crash last Monday and four more were taken to hospital. Ainsworth was among those taken to hospital, but family and friends in his home country of New Zealand say he has since died of his injuries.
CBC News has identified the other victims of the crash as two Italian tourists: Andreas Widmann, 35, and Heiner (Heinzl) Oberrauch, 29.
The three other injured passengers remain in stable condition, RCMP said on Monday.
‘A tight-knit community’
Gareth Shanks with Skyline says the company is devastated by the loss of McGowan, who is described as a phenomenal pilot and a much-loved part of their team.
An employment page for McGowan indicates he had been a pilot based out of the Kelowna region for the past two decades.
Ainsworth was president of The New Zealand Mountain Guides Association, according to a Facebook post from the group mourning his loss.
Industry group Helicat Canada also issued their condolences in a written statement attributed to executive Ross Cloutier.
“With only 22 local heli-ski operators, this is a small and tight-knit community,” Cloutier said in the statement.
“Lewis and Mark were skilled professionals who were well-liked by those they worked with, both guests and colleagues. This is a sad and unfortunate accident. The whole industry is grieving this loss today.”
Ainsworth’s mother, Marney Ainsworth, said in a Facebook post over the weekend that her son would not survive his injuries, and on Monday posted a video tribute to her son.
She said on Facebook that she was “humbled and so very proud” to hear how highly her son was regarded by mountaineering colleagues.
The Facebook post from the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association said Ainsworth was internationally recognized in the mountaineering community and was 35 at the time of his death.
“He is loved by many and will be dearly missed by all those who have been fortunate enough to know Lewis and have shared in his passion for being in the mountains,” it says.
The post says he is survived by his partner and their 10-year-old daughter.
Northern Escape president John Forrest said in a statement that his team is experiencing a profound loss, describing Ainsworth as “friendly, helpful, passionate and amazingly talented.”
Of McGowan, he said: “Mark was an outstanding pilot and a mentor to many. I worked with him for over a decade and always enjoyed flying with him. He was a consummate professional. Our industry suffered a massive loss with the passing of these two men.”
Bodies recovered, investigation ongoing
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has deployed a team of investigators to the site of the crash, which occurred during an excursion run by Northern Escape.
On Sunday, Northern Escape said the bodies of the three men who died at the scene of the crash had been recovered from the backcountry.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Kris Clark says members of Terrace Search and Rescue were able to get back to the site on the weekend.
“Poor weather and visibility conditions severely impacted efforts to safely return to the crash site over several days,” says Clark.
He says the Mounties are supporting the ongoing investigations by the BC Coroners Service, the Transportation Safety Board and WorkSafeBC, the provincial worker safety agency.