Four people who died in a New Year’s Day helicopter crash in northern Alberta were identified Sunday as members of a close-knit farming family.
Wade Balisky, 45, his wife, Aubrey Balisky, 37, and two of their daughters, Jewel, 8, and Fleur, 2, were killed in the crash.
They are survived by Wade and Aubrey’s three other children, Chevey, 16, Remington, 14, and Indya, 12.
The family lived together in the small farming community of DeBolt, Alta., about 45 kilometres east of Grande Prairie.
Chris Warkentin, the Conservative MP for Grande Prairie-Mackenzie and a cousin of Aubrey’s, released a statement on the family’s behalf on Sunday evening.
Warkentin said Wade, a farmer, loved to fly, travel, boat and play, and shared great joy in doing these things with his family. Aubrey was an artist and photographer who cherished her family and provided constant encouragement to them and her friends, Warkentin said.
“Wade and Aubrey loved their extended family, friends and neighbours,” Warkentin said. “The coffee was always on at their farm and their door was always open. They made strangers into friends at an alarming rate and made a priority of keeping those relationships meaningful.”
The couple shared a deep Christian faith and would have celebrated their 20th anniversary on Jan. 19.
Warkentin said he was close with his cousin Aubrey and he grew up in the same neighbourhood as Wade, whom he described as an “experienced pilot.”
“The families are very, very close,” he said. “It goes back a couple of generations, at least a generation or two that our families have known each other.”
Crash under investigation
Warkentin said the helicopter crashed on a property jointly owned by Aubrey’s father and his own father, which he believed was “totally coincidental.”
The crash site, in Birch Hills County, is about 500 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.
“Our families want to thank all those who have reached out to us over the past hours and days. We are overwhelmed by your love and support,” Warkentin said.
“Thank you for your prayers. We need them now and will need them in the hours, days and years ahead.”
Police were dispatched to respond to a call on Friday night from an emergency location transmitter in a Robinson R44 helicopter in the Birch Hills County area, Alberta RCMP said on Saturday.
On Saturday, a spokesperson from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said they had completed its initial examination of the site and said investigators will now gather information, including the pilot’s training experience and the aircraft’s maintenance history.