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Scholarship fund in memory of young pilot

Nicole Veerman
Northern News Services
Published Friday, February 4, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - When asked to describe his son, Robert Tumchewics quoted a tribute written by his daughter Alicia.

NNSL photo/graphic

John Tumchewics of Yellowknife was killed in a helicopter crash in Northern Ontario on July 23, 2010. On Tuesday, his family launched a memorial fund scholarship in his name for Northerners pursuing a career as a helicopter pilot. - NNSL file photo

"John Tumchewics was a young man of genuine wit, warmth and intelligence.

"I think that probably says it the best."

Tumchewics, a 21-year-old helicopter pilot who graduated from Sir John Franklin High School in 2007, passed away July 23, 2010, when his helicopter struck an unmarked, abandoned forestry tower in a remote area of Northern Ontario.

As a tribute to his short life and his love of flying, his parents, Robert and Anna Tumchewics, and his sisters, Alicia and Louise, launched the John Tumchewics Memorial Fund Scholarship Tuesday.

"I think he would like the fact that he's helping somebody else out. He was very much about helping out other people," said Robert.

At the launch, which took place at the Trinity Helicopters hangar in Yellowknife, Tumchewics' family presented a $5,000 cheque to the Yellowknife Community Foundation, which will be managing the memorial fund.

After the fund reaches $25,000, an annual scholarship will be given out to Northerners pursuing a career as a helicopter pilot.

With a former aircraft maintenance engineer for a father and other relatives in aviation, it was hard for Tumchewics to escape the lure of flying, said Robert.

During his aviation training in Northern Ontario, Tumchewics called his family frequently to talk about his studies.

He was especially enthusiastic about his first evening flight.

"He said that was actually the most peaceful flying he had done," Robert said. "It was a real highlight of his very short career."

Tumchewics graduated from flight school last spring. When the crash occurred, he was flying with his classmate and good friend Ethan Boucha, 19. They were ferrying a helicopter from North Bay to Kapuskasing.

Both men died instantly.

Robert said he thinks the scholarship will help his family heal.

"I think helping anyone when you're grieving, believe it or not, helps you out. That's what I found very shortly after the accident," he said. "It's definitely going to be a help."

Daryl Dolynny, president of the community foundation, said this memorial fund is a way for people to celebrate Tumchewics' "helpful spirit and love of flying."

Individuals and organizations interested in contributing to the fund are invited to contact the Yellowknife Community Foundation.

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