Pilot and heli-skiing guide identified among four dead in B.C. chopper crash

Pilot and heli-skiing guide identified among four dead in B.C. chopper crash
THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-New Zealand Mountain Guides Association, Ainsworth family
Lewis Ainsworth is seen in this undated handout photo provided by his family. Ainsworth, the president of the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association, has died of his injuries after a Jan. 22, 2024, helicopter crash near Terrace, B.C.

A helicopter pilot and a skiing guide have been identified as two of the four people killed by a crash north of Terrace, B.C., last week.

Northern Escape Heli-Skiing and Skyline Helicopters say in a joint statement that they are expressing their deepest condolences to the family and friends of pilot Mark McGowan and guide Lewis Ainsworth.

Three people died at the scene of the crash when the helicopter went down last Monday and four more were taken to hospital, but family and friends of Ainsworth in his home country of New Zealand say he has since died of his injuries in hospital.

The Italian news agency ANSA reported last week that three of the victims were from Italy, but Northern Escape said two Italians were among the dead.

Gareth Shanks with Skyline says they are devastated by the loss of McGowan, who was a phenomenal pilot and a much-loved part of their team.

Northern Escape says Ainsworth was into his second year as a guide with the company and was a rising star in the industry.

The New Zealand Mountain Guides Association says In a Facebook post that Ainsworth, who was the group’s president, died from his injuries in the crash.

Ainsworth’s mother, Marney Ainsworth, wrote in a Facebook post over the weekend that he would not survive his injuries, and on Monday she posted a video tribute to her son.

She says she was “humbled and so very proud” to hear how highly her son was regarded by mountaineering colleagues.

On Monday, RCMP confirmed the fourth death from the crash, saying the three other passengers remain in stable condition.

Northern Escape president John Forrest says in the statement that expressing the profound grief their team is experiencing is impossible.

Forrest says Ainsworth was “friendly, helpful, passionate and amazingly talented.”

“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. Everyone who worked with them is grieving,” Forrest says.

The company confirmed on Sunday that the bodies of the three people who died immediately after the crash had been recovered from the site.

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.

The Facebook post from the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association says 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.

It says he is survived by his partner and their 10-year-old daughter.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2024.

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