Conair Loses 2 Pilots over the Weekend

On Saturday, Tim Whiting’s Convair 580 air tanker crashed while fighting a forest fire near Lillooet. Rescue workers tried to get to the crash site, but were turned back by the terrain and a wildfire started by the crash itself. Authorities didn’t want to release the identities until the crew’s fate was known. By Sunday responders were able to access the crash site by helicopter and confirmed that both Tim and his co-pilot, Brian Tilley were dead.

Tim Whiting in an interview on fire fighting. July 29, 2010

It’s likely that the pilots knew they were in trouble before losing control of the plane. According to witnesses, the plane dumped its load of fire retardant far from the fire it was fighting shortly before the crash. Suspecting that the pilots were attempting to lighten their craft, Transport Safety Board spokesman Bill Yearwood called it “an indication they may have encountered problems at that point.”

Brian and Annette Tilley with their four daughters. January, 2010

When responders fall to the crisis they were trying to mitigate, that awful irony is never lost. For all of us it serves a stark reminder of what’s often at stake not only when an incident threatens the public, but also in mounting a response to that threat. No one knows yet how or why Whiting’s plane fell from the sky, though both men were seasoned pilots, and in a recent interview with the CBC, Tim Whiting described his plane as a “wonderful craft”. What is known is that both men agreed to do a difficult, dangerous and necessary job. Men like that are hard to come by, and their loss diminishes us all.

There are currently about 375 wildfires burning across B.C. CTV News

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