Keith Krueger, a pilot who spent decades in the NWT, was remembered for his kind heart and dedication to flying after his passing on Friday.
Keith, 72, was the instructor aboard a Murphy Moose carrying three people that crashed into a field around 20 km east of Edmonton International Airport.
All three had passed away by the time emergency responders arrived at the scene, RCMP said.
The cause of Friday’s incident is not yet clear. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said it had deployed a team to the site and opened an investigation.
The other occupants of the plane have not yet been publicly identified.
Alongside his time as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Keith spent years flying the Hercules aircraft across the Northwest Territories.
Ray Weber, a former colleague, flew with Keith on the Lockheed Electra in the 1980s and they later trained together on the Boeing 737 at a course in Los Angeles.
Weber said Keith was a longtime pilot for NWT Air and First Air, then spent time flying research aircraft across Antarctica before deciding to be closer to family and work for smaller operators in Alberta and Ontario.
“He loved flying. There wasn’t an airplane around that he wouldn’t get into and fly if he had half a chance,” Weber told Cabin Radio.
“He could be the most aggravating son of a gun you ever saw in your life. He’d steal your dessert, but he’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.
“He’s been in the aviation business for next to all his life, practically. Everywhere you went, you ran into somebody who knew Keith.”
Joe McBryan, founder and president of Buffalo Airways, also paid tribute to Keith, who flew DC-3s for Buffalo in the early 1980s.
McBryan said it was important that Keith’s family knew the North remembered his contribution.
In a post to Facebook, the Leduc branch of the Royal Canadian Legion described Keith as “a friend and mentor to many [who] always had a great big smile, a joke, and a hug to share.”
Keith’s own Facebook page carried dozens of tributes from friends and former colleagues, remembering him for the strength of those hugs, his kind heart, and his piloting skills.
“He has touched many people,” one of Keith’s daughters, Karen, wrote in a public post. “He was a great pilot and he passed that passion on to so many people. He will be missed.”
“It was always fun flying with Keith,” Weber concluded.
“He enjoyed what he was doing, and that made it more enjoyable for you flying with him.”
He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Joy, an obituary stated, his children Kristine, Kathy, James, Karen, Kristoffer, and Kevin, and his grandchildren Dane, Catlin, Ila, Anna, Carter, Aron, and Flynn.
A celebration of life at 1pm on Friday, July 10, will be live-streamed by Leduc Alliance Church.