Former Alberta premier Jim Prentice killed in plane crash

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The former premier of the Canadian province of Alberta, Jim Prentice, was killed on Thursday night along with three other people after the plane they were traveling in crashed shortly after takeoff near Kelowna, British Columbia, en route to Calgary, Alberta.

File photo of Jim Prentice, 2014.
Image: Manning Center (flickr).

The plane, a Cessna Citation, departed Kelowna at 9:32 p.m. before quickly disappearing from radar sight, according to a Transportation Safety Board official, Bill Yearwood. The National Post reported RCMP detachments in Kelowna and Lake Country were alerted to the loss of contact at 10:07 p.m. by Surrey Air Traffic Control Centre.

According to tracking site FlightAware, the plane's last recorded data point showed it descending from an altitude of 4,800 feet at 2,200 feet per minute. The plane crashed 18 km (11 miles) north of Kelowna in a wooded are, where its wreckage was subsequently found by search crews. Local residents noted it was raining at the time, though without heavy storms.

On the accident, Bill Yearwood stated to CTV News, "It was during climb out from Kelowna that something went wrong obviously to cause the aircraft to descend and collide with terrain."

Officials and family identified the other passengers on the plane as optometrist Ken Gellatly, father-in-law to one of Prentice's daughters, and businessman Sheldon Dunphy Reid, who owned stock in the plane's operator Norjet. Both men were from Calgary. The plane's pilot was Jim Kruk, a friend of Prentice.

The Prentice family stated, "Words cannot begin to express our profound shock and heartbreak at the news that our beloved husband, father and grandfather, Jim, has died in this tragic event". The statement also mentioned Gellatly, "also a very special man." They noted, "To lose two family members at once is unbelievably painful and we are certain you will appreciate and respect our wishes for privacy at this time and the coming weeks".

Prentice, 60, led Alberta as premier and leader of the Progressive Conservative Party from September 2014 to May 2015, until his government was toppled in a provincial election. Before ascending to the position, he served under the federal Conservative Party as a cabinet minister, first for Indian and Northern Affairs, then Industry, and finally the Environment. As news broke of his death, the country's political leaders issued tributes to Prentice.

In a press conference in Lethbridge, Alberta, Justin Trudeau, the country's Prime Minister, described Prentice as "a strong voice for the people of Alberta and for the people of Canada", adding Prentice's work used an "intelligent, honest and straightforward approach". "I greatly enjoyed my interactions with Jim, time I spent working beside him, across from him in the House. And while we didn't always share the same views, he was always incredibly kind and respectful to me, and I will miss him profoundly".

Stephen Harper, Trudeau's predecessor, under whose administration Prentice served, issued a statement on Twitter, "Laureen [Harper's wife] and I were shocked and saddened to learn of the death of our friend and colleague Jim Prentice [...] Jim was a family man, friend, leader, and most importantly, a proud Canadian. His legacy will live on through his loving family and decades of public service."

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, highlighted Prentice's term of office as environment minister and his "genuine concern" for environmental protection: "My heart goes out to Jim's wife, Karen, three daughters and grandchildren as they mourn this tragic loss", saying the news of Prentice's death left her "heartbroken".

Tom Mulcair, leader of the federal NDP Party, noted that Prentice's service to his country and province was carried out with "honour and respect". "He possessed a love for politics and deep sense of public service that was universally admired. [...] Today we all mourn this tragic loss."

"He was deeply loved Alberta," said Prentice's successor Rachel Notley, who defeated Prentice in the previous election, following which Prentice resigned as leader of the Progressive Conservative party and as a member of Alberta's Legislative Assembly. "I benefited from his advice". "For Alberta, today is a day of sorrow in the face of terrible tragedy." Notley's father died in a plane crash.

Prentice's death came months after another former Canadian cabinet minister died in a plane crash, Jean Lapierre. Lapierre, of the federal Liberal Party, died after his plane crashed on March 29 in Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec.