Whistler's aviation and search and rescue community is reeling following the news that a helicopter accident near Cultus Lake in Chilliwack has claimed the life of a former Whistler resident and helicopter pilot.
Civilian RCMP pilot Dave Brolin, 46, was killed when the helicopter he was flying crashed during a training exercise Tuesday (Jan. 17). Details about the possible cause of the crash have not been released and the Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
Having joined the RCMP six years ago, Brolin spent his years before that living and working in Whistler as a pilot for Blackcomb Helicopters (now Blackcomb Aviation) and Whistler Search and Rescue (WSAR) before moving to the Lower Mainland for the RCMP.
"I first met Dave in 1997," said Brad Sills, of WSAR. "He was a very close associate to Whistler Search and Rescue and we are certainly going to miss him."
According to Sills, Brolin played a key role in numerous local SAR missions during his almost 10 years in Whistler.
"There were a lot of search and rescue missions with Dave. Much of the searching we do is in less than perfect conditions and he was always very steady, calm and collected," recalled Sills. "He was certainly a guy you wanted in charge when you met those conditions."
That calm demeanour was the result of a varied flying resume that included everything from flying for Helijet to working for heli-logging operations to flying for the U.S. military, as Brolin was a dual citizen. He also worked as a pilot for the film and TV industry, having contributed to productions such as Ski Bums and Snakes on a Plane.
"He flew in Desert Storm and after that, retired from the military," said Steve Flynn, Brolin's former boss at Blackcomb Helicopters. "In Whistler, he worked with all the local operators, avalanche control, he did everything. He was one of those pilots who had the experience and skill level to do everything that Blackcomb did. Not all pilots had that experience - Dave was one of the few that did."
But it's not just Brolin's skills that will be missed, friends and colleagues said.
"He was very outgoing, very friendly, engaging, loved people and just loved to have fun. He tried to turn everything into fun as much as he could," recalled Flynn. "He was very positive, very professional in his work and never turned down work whether it was on weekends or evenings - he was always there when needed."
Though Flynn had not worked with Brolin since he left Whistler, the two had kept in touch.
"We stayed in contact, we were close," said Flynn, noting that the last time he spoke with Brolin was a few months back. "The aviation community is small, we got along fantastic. We had a lot of respect for each other."
Steve Gray, the Whistler Base manager at Blackcomb Aviation, also has fond memories of the time he spent working with Brolin.
"It was a big loss for us when he left for the RCMP. He was a great leader, a good role model for younger pilots," said Gray.
"He saved many lives over the years on many search and rescue missions and medivacs."
Brolin leaves behind a wife and two children.
"The entire community of Whistler ski patrollers, avalanche technicians, heli-ski operators, search and rescue - everybody is definitely going to miss his presence," said Sills.