NEWS

Alberta community shaken by loss of plane crash victims

05/14/2012 05:42 EDT | Updated 07/14/2012 05:12 EDT

The cousin of one of the victims who died in a midair plane crash that killed five people Saturday said the entire community of Mossleigh, Alta., is in mourning.

Eric Donovan, his 11-year-old son Wade and pilot Denny Loree died after the plane they were travelling in to St. Brieux crashed into another aircraft over Saskatchewan.

Ian Donovan, the newly-elected Wildrose MLA for Little Bow, was very close to his cousin Eric. They grew up together and were often mistaken for brothers.

"He was a very comical person," Ian said. "He would do anything for a good laugh. He would wear a T-shirt that said anything just for a good giggle."

Eric, who ran a grain trucking company, leaves behind a wife and three other children.

Ian is also a friend and neighbour of the pilot who offered to fly his cousin and nephew to Saskatchewan to pick up parts for an air seeder, a machine used to plant seed crop in large fields. Loree leaves behind a wife and son.

"Denny quit seeding to help Eric out to go for this parts run where a lot of guys wouldn't quit putting in their own crop to help a neighbour out," said Ian. "But that's just the guy Denny was.... He was the first guy to help you out with anything."

Supposed to be a quick trip

The axle to Eric’s seeder was broken and, since it’s seeding time in farmers’ fields across the prairies, he wanted to get to Saskatchewan quickly to pick up the part so he could get back to work.

Loree offered to help and Eric accepted. Eric was an aspiring pilot himself and loved to fly.

They left early Saturday at 6:15 a.m. from a little grass airstrip near Mossleigh, deciding to take Wade along for the ride.

Clearly excited, Wade posed for a photo inside the plane wearing aviators, headgear and his trusty Calgary Flames cap — a team he proudly supported, including one of his favourite players, Jarome Iginla.

"Sounds like they made it about three miles away from their destination when they collided with another plane," said Ian.

Ian said his cousin's death affects the whole community.

“He's a good family man,” he said. “He had four kids and [a] wife. Coached his sons' hockey teams and helped coached baseball — very community oriented. He was in the Lion's Club in Mossleigh and just all-around good guy."

Farmers to pay their respect by seeding

The Donovan clan has lived just southeast of Calgary for decades and their family has deep roots in the community. Loree lives just north of Nanton, Alta., but flew to his farm in Mossleigh often.

To honour the victims, farmers will band together Wednesday to help seed their fields.

“It's kind of a farmer's way of giving flowers,” said Ian. "You go out and take care of what you know how to do. Farmers know how to sit in tractors and get the crop put in, and take care of that stuff, so it's one less thing for the family to worry about."

Memorials are planned for the victims later this week.

The two people from Regina who died in the small plane collision have been identified as Eric Jackson, 60, and Joy Jackson, 57.

Their northbound plane was leaving Regina on its way to La Ronge, Sask.

The Transportation Safety Board is still investigating how two small planes collided. An official with the Transportation Safety Board said Monday that all five bodies have been recovered.

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