MEDICINE HAT, Alta. – A small plane that crashed after taking off from Medicine Hat, Alta., was returning to Saskatchewan following a party to celebrate an upcoming wedding, says the mother of one of the three people who died.
Nancy Filteau confirms her son, Justin Filteau, 26, a Saskatchewan football player and judo competitor, died when the plane went down on its way to Moose Jaw late Saturday.
“The last picture I got of him was he was in the airplane – the private plane- and he had the headset and everything on, and he said, ‘This is cool. Maybe I have to become a pilot, too, now!”’
“He had a zest for life and he filled every waking moment with everything and anything he could do.”
The Transportation Safety Board said it was deploying a team of investigators to the crash site to determine what happened to the plane, which the board said was an American Aviation AA-5B.
RCMP spokesman Curtis Peters said the plane took off around 10:15 p.m. from Medicine Hat Regional Airport en route to Moose Jaw, Sask.
Peters said the flight was scheduled to be about 90 minutes long, but when it did not arrive, a search for the aircraft began. He said the plane was found Sunday morning in Irvine, Alta., about 30 kilometres east of Medicine Hat.
All three people aboard were pronounced dead.
Filteau said the other two crash victims were friends of her family’s.
Justin Filteau played football for his high school, and later for the Saskatoon Hilltops and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, winning numerous championships.
A machinist by trade who lived in Saskatoon, his mother said Filteau believed in giving back to the sport, and coached the Valkyries, a women’s football team in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League.
He also competed in judo like his mother, a former member of Canada’s Olympic judo team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
The Valkyries posted on Facebook that they learned the news of their coach’s death shortly after arriving in Regina on Sunday morning, where they said Filteau was supposed to meet them.
“His spirited, rambunctious and passionate heart is what drove us to the win today. We love you and miss you more than we will ever be able to express. This game and this season are dedicated to you,” the team’s post said.
Nancy Filteau said her son was bullied as a young child. He later became involved in with Football Saskatchewan’s Be More Than A Bystander program, which educates youth to speak up about violence and abuse against women.
“He believed in the underdog. He believed in setting goals high and he pushed really hard. He was only 5′ 8” and he played against all the big linebackers,” she said. “I think the most important thing is to be strong. We have to work hard and push through because there’s nothing we can do to bring him back.”