The region is suffering a heartbreaking loss as members of Port Alberni come together to support family and friends after this tragic incident.
Friends say Brent Fedirchuk was the pilot who died when the Hughes 369D he was flying went down shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday. He was known in the logging industry as the “Island Star.”
“I know lots of people that are suffering right now, people that have worked with him, people he’s done work for. It’s not easy, and he’s well-known around Port Alberni, for sure,” Randy Haberland told CTV News. He was Fedirchuk’s friend for over 20 years.
“He’s one of the best pilots. In this game, not only do you have to be good, but you’ve got to be fast and good,” Haberland added.
The crash happened as Fedirchuk was conducting block logging in the Naka Creek area just north of Sayward. The helicopter he was flying was owned by Kestrel Helicopters.
Rescuers located the downed chopper not long after, along the Johnstone Strait. The Transportation Safety Board has since sent investigators to the remote location.
“We’ll let Transport Canada do all [their] stuff, and we’ll make a statement afterwards,” said an employee at Kestrel Helicopters. “It’s a really tough go.”
Much more than just a skilled pilot, Fedirchuk is also remembered as a dedicated community volunteer. He was named Volunteer of the Year in 2016, a year before he became a board member of a community group called Funtastic.
The group’s executive director, Paul Robertson, says the two became close friends.
“I met him on the soccer pitch, and he joined our soccer club, and we became good friends, and I emceed his wedding, and we haven’t stopped,” Robertson told CTV News.
In fact, Robertson sparked Fedirchuk’s love for flying.
“I took him out to work with me one day, and he saw what we were doing, flying [cedar] shake blocks, and he goes, ‘I want to be a pilot,’ and he saved his $30,000, he got his pilot’s licence, and we tried finding him a job, and he finally landed one at Kestrel,” Robertson said.
And that’s not the end of Fedirchuk’s community involvement. He played a large role in fighting forest fires in the record hot years of 2019 and 2021.
“Brent was on them steady in Hope and all over the Interior,” Robertson said. “He loved flying in that helicopter. He was a very, very safe pilot. I flew with him so many times. Safety was number one.”
The helicopter may have had mechanical issues before the crash. Fedirchuk apparently radioed to workers on the ground that he had a problem and then issued a mayday call.
“We just feel for his family,” Robertson said. “I know it’s crushing. I know it’s heartbreaking.”
Sayward RCMP, the BC Coroners Service, and the Transportation Safety Board are all working on the investigation.