Former Whistler helicopter pilot dies in crash 

Dave Brolin part of many local search and rescue missions

click to enlarge Dave Brolin
  • Dave Brolin

A former Whistler helicopter pilot has died in a training crash near Chilliwack.

Dave Brolin, who joined the RCMP as a civilian member of staff in 2006, previously worked for Blackcomb Aviation and flew many missions for search and rescue.

In a press conference held by the RCMP, Chief Superintendent Wayne Rideout said Brolin had just successfully completed a training exercise and was preparing to return to base when the helicopter crashed just before 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

Brolin, 46, was the sole occupant and was taken to hospital by RCMP Emergency Response Team members who were part of the training exercise. He was piloting the RCMP's Air 5 at the time of the crash.

At the Whistler detachment, RCMP Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair recalled first flying with Brolin in 2006 while LeClair was still a member of the Coquitlam RCMP.

"It's tragic to lose someone like this. He was a very conscientious pilot, highly skilled and somebody who I was very comfortable flying with," he said.

LeClair added that some of the missions he flew on with Brolin included the search near Pemberton for Vancouver hikers Rachael Bagnall and Jonathan Jette´ in September 2010, who were never located, and the search for Amy Wong, who fell into the Cheakamus River while fly-fishing with her boyfriend Justin Chan in August 2011. Chan's body was recovered but Wong's body was not found.

Brad Sills of Whistler Search and Rescue (WSAR) said he flew "countless missions with him" after meeting Brolin when he first arrived at Blackcomb Aviation in 1997.

"He gave us a hand in delivering our long-line rescue program," he said. "He would never get rattled, no matter what."

Sills last worked with Brolin a year ago in the same helicopter that crashed in Tuesday's accident, during search work at Cheakamus Lake.

Sills recounted one time when he and a rescue team flew on the backside of Powder Mountain when suddenly the rotors on the helicopter iced up.

"It's not a condition anyone wants to encounter, the windshield turns white. He managed to take us up to a higher elevation and we got out of it."

Sills laughed at the memory.

"When you're not a pilot your inclination is to go lower and not higher. And when he said we were going to do this I remember thinking 'Don't do that!' I just remember that very calm voice saying 'I think we'll ascend to warmer air.' You could have heard a pin drop.

"He'll be dearly missed by all the teams in the corridor. We all flew with him," Sills said.

Steve Gray replaced Brolin as base manager at Blackcomb Aviation after he left to join the RCMP in Vancouver, and had worked with him for a year before Brolin left. Gray said along with his abilities, Brolin brought a dry sense of humour to his work.

"He had been flying for at least 20 years, with many thousands of hours of experience, ranging from military to heliskiing, long-line, film work on movies and TV advertising... He was one of these guys who could do pretty much anything," Gray said.

"We were all very sad when he left and went to the RCMP and it was nice for us to see him on a regular basis when he came up here for them."

Brolin, the married father of an 8-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy was born in California. He flew with the U.S Army during Desert Storm before coming to Canada.To have a pilot with Brolin's experience and confidence was crucial to regions in B.C. further afield at times when it counted and this was duly noted by Premier Christy Clark in a statement.

"I was deeply saddened to learn of this tragic loss and my thoughts are with the family, friends and co-workers of pilot Dave Brolin.

"This serves as a reminder to all of us of the bravery and dedication of emergency responders who work to further public safety and aid British Columbians in times of great need," she said.

The federal Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.

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