Fatal Accident Claims Lives of Firefighting Heroes on Trans-Canada Highway

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In a poignant tribute, Josh Weisner, a team leader at Tomahawk Ventures – a company tasked with mitigating forest fires under the province’s mandate, is reflecting upon the lives of four companions turned victims of a tragic automobile accident. Wasner’s colleagues met their end as their pickup truck collided head-on with a semi-truck along the Trans-Canada Highway, near Kamloops in the early hours of a recent Tuesday.

Weisner, alongside a 10-member crew from Tomahawk had just wound up a two-week firefighting deployment near Fort St. James. Post assignment, the officers split into two separate vehicles for the return journey to their base station in Kamloops. Among the departed was Kenneth Patrick, a comrade and team leader who was in the other truck. The last words Patrick left with Weisner were telling of brave spirits and tentative promises, “You say jump, and I say how high.” Speaking with melancholy reticence, Weisner recollected how he saw Patrick planning the trip home, the last of his memory of Patrick, whom he left to his paperwork.

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On returning home, Weisner grew worried as his messages to the four officers in the other truck remained unanswered. His unanswered texts fostered a longing to confirm their safe return, overtaken by an unsettling suspicion of a mishap, which was unfortunately confirmed.

The grim announcement about the fatal accident involving the pickup and a semi-truck on the Trans-Canada highway, confirming no survivors, played out Weisner’s worst fears. With a heavy heart, he describes the uncanny dread, “I knew it in my heart, but I didn’t want to find out, I didn’t want to hear it.”

Remembering Patrick, Weisner talks of a man with the intimidating outer demeanor and a heart swelling with kindness. He remembers him as a proactive worker and a superior firefighter. Patrick’s irreplaceable presence leaves gaping vacancies in the team and his comrade’s heart, “I loved working alongside of him.”

Weisner pays homage to another deceased 19-year-old team member, Jaxon Billyboy. Billyboy’s eager spirits and a keen learning disposition assert an air of loss to the narrative. “It was his first time in the bush…he was the first to listen, the first to learn, the first to ask questions. It was such a blessing to teach him.”

Another victim, identified by family members as Blain Sonnenberg, was always full of smiles and imparted positive vibes, according to Weisner. He shared a meaningful heart-to-heart with the fourth victim on their final workday, whose name remains unconfirmed for now.

Weisner still grapples with the abrupt loss of his firefighting partners, finding solace in sharing their memories, the heartening support from the firefighting community – a brotherhood that stood by him despite his hesitations to reach out.

The Tomahawk team grieves the loss of its members, who spent their summer partaking in treacherous forest fire control measures during B.C.’s worst forest fire season. “Most of us are First Nations on Tomahawk, and I know personally all of us have been through trauma. And I think this is why we chose this occupation was to help communities,” opens up Weisner in his moment of melancholy.

Despite the heart-rending loss of friends and coworkers, Weisner reaffirms his dedication to his duties as a wildland firefighter, “This is 100 per cent my career, it’s been for 21 years now. There is not enough of us. I will not back down.”

In remembrance of the fallen, a candlelight vigil is slated to be held at Memorial Park in the community of Chase, come dusk on Saturday, September 23.