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Pilots remembered

Heather Lange
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The gymnasium was a sea of white and maroon ribbons clasped over hearts Sunday as family, friends and co-workers gathered at St. Patrick High School to celebrate the life of Nicole Stacey and Trevor Jonasson, killed in a horrific plane crash Sept. 22.

NNSL photo/graphic

Capt. Trevor Jonasson,36, and first officer Nicole Stacey, 26, died while attempting to land their Twin Otter floatplane on Yellowknife Bay. - photo courtesy of Arctic Sunwest Charters

Arctic Sunwest Capt. Trevor Jonasson,36, and first officer Nicole Stacey, 26, died while attempting to land their Twin Otter floatplane on Yellowknife Bay upon return from Thor Lake, 100 km southeast of the Yellowknife. The aircraft clipped some power lines and the Aurora Geosciences building before crashing between two buildings on McDonald Drive in Old Town. All seven of the crew's passengers survived.

Rev. Ron McLean of the Holy Trinity Anglican Church opened the ceremony, recounting his memory of learning how to fly himself in the 1970s and the feeling of joy he experienced on his first solo flight. McLean expressed his gratitude that there weren't more casualties in the crash and none on the ground.

"We don't know what all took place. What I do know is that we had two heroes in the front of the plane in the cockpit," said McLean.

E-mails from friends and family were read out to the crowd of more than 300 people. The congregation watched a slide show presentation showing the pair in their uniforms smiling while seated on the floats of their plane.

Keith Shergold, an Arctic Sunwest pilot, read from a statement about Stacey from other pilots working at the company.

"None of us were prepared for this single force of nature who inspired us with her fierce determination, optimism and sense of purpose. To Nicole, the world was a colourful place, full of interesting things and endless opportunities for adventure," he read.

"I'm not even sure if Nicole knew how highly regarded she was. All of her crew mates always looked forward to seeing her, hearing about her adventures, seeing her pictures. Nicole Stacey made the world a better place and she will be acutely missed by everyone she came in contact with."

Capt. Conrad Schubert of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment 49th Battalion's Yellowknife C Company, said Stacey, who held the rank of master corporal with the reserves, was originally from Inuvik but grew up in Yellowknife. She finished her high school education in Alberta and joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2002, becoming a signaler. After returning to Yellowknife in 2009 to pursue her dream of becoming a commercial pilot, she became an instructor in voice communications and chemical and biological defence with the Yellowknife C Company.

"She was a really fantastic instructor. She could use her personality to teach with humour instead of sarcasm. If her recruits made a mistake, she could correct it without making the person feel bad," said Schubert.

Chris Van Drunen, another pilot with Arctic Sunwest Charters, spoke on behalf of company pilots about Jonasson.

"Capt. Trevor Jonasson arrived in Yellowknife in the spring of 2010 from Pickle Lake, Ont., where he had been working as a bush pilot, flying to communities and camps in the Northern woods. His love of machines and the great outdoors gave him a passion for flying that eventually led him and his dear partner Betsy to move to Yellowknife.

"Trevor, who was known to most of his friends as T-Bone, distinguished himself with his calm, serious approach to flying. He earned the respect of his co-pilots with his hard work and consistent leadership. T- Bone was always ready for adventure in his beloved Twin Otter, whether he was flying greasy drill parts on skis at 40 below or slinging groceries and rolling drums onto rickety docks from his floatplane.

"Our friend Trevor has left a gap in our ranks that will never be filled. His love of flying and his cheerful hard work had an effect on all of us, and we loved our own work more because of the example he set for us," read Van Drunen.

Shergold's wife Jacki McKinnon spoke for the spouses, families and friends of the pilots and what they deal with when they watch their loved one go out the door everyday to fly for a living.

"When you fly a plane in the North, it is unlike anywhere else. Our pilots up here are the best in the world. This is the spirit that built the North; that fearless, heroic strength of character. Every pilot I know has had character and Nicole and Trevor are shining examples of that," said McKinnon.

Avalon Rare Metals Inc., which had three employees on board the Twin Otter on Thursday, also had a message for the congregation.

"We would like to pass on our deepest condolences on their tragic loss of life. In those final moments before the crash, we know both Trevor and Nicole took whatever actions they could to save the life of all on board and for this we will be forever grateful. Please note our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with you," read Thom Pilgrim, manager of Arctic Sunwest Charters.

Pilgrim thanked the people of Discovery Air, the RCMP, Yellowknife emergency personal, Stanton Territorial Hospital and the Yellowknife community at large, including people who helped during and after the crash, local businesses and customers for their overwhelming support.

"Nicole and Trevor were two people whose professionalism was unmistakable. Their attitude and passion towards life was infectious to all that came in contact with them. They were taken away prematurely and will be missed by all. Trevor and Nicole, rest in peace," said Pilgrim.

There will be a celebration of life ceremony for Jonasson at the Buffalo Airways hangar today at 1 p.m. A funeral for Stacey will be held today at 2:30 p.m at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church.

- Please see page 21 for related story.

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