Bob Henderson, second from right, was a member of 443 Squadron, killed in a 1994 helicopter crash near Saint John, N.B. (Contributed by Sharyl-Ann Henderson)

Bob Henderson, second from right, was a member of 443 Squadron, killed in a 1994 helicopter crash near Saint John, N.B. (Contributed by Sharyl-Ann Henderson)

‘He would be so honoured’: Squadron mate looks to memorialize pilots killed in Sea King crash

Fellow airman, widow of pilot killed in 1994 crash petition for memorial sign along Pat Bay Highway

When the Royal Canadian Air Force retires the fleet of CH-124 Sea King helicopters that has served them since the early ‘60s, a memorial of sorts will take place complete with flypast and ceremony.

But, former Sea King pilot Jim Newton wants to see two of his fellow airmen honoured as well – Bob Henderson and Wally Sweetman, who were killed on April 28, 1994, when a fire broke out aboard the Sea King they were flying, crashing into a hillside near Saint John, N.B.

“It was brutal,” Newton recalls of the crash.

“They were two of our mentors, people that we totally looked up to,” he says of the pair who trained him as members of 443 Squadron in Pat Bay. “It was completely demoralizing.”

Wally Sweetman, a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force, was killed in April of 1994 when the helicopter he was piloting with squadron mate Bob Henderson crashed near Saint John, New Brunswick. (Contributed/Jim Newton)

In honour of their service, Newton wrote to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in late spring requesting a sign be erected on the side of the Pat Bay Highway with their names.

Travelling through California on a road trip with his kids earlier this year, Newton was struck by how many signs he passed memorializing American veterans.

“I couldn’t get it out of my brain to do one for Bob and Wally,” he says.

RELATED: Royal Canadian Air Force retires CH-124 Sea King helicopters

Members of the Royal Canadian Air Force perform maintenance on a member of the CH-124 Sea King helicopter fleet aboard HMCS Annapolis in 1993. (Contributed/Jim Newton)

The response from the government has been slow – Newton had hoped to have something ready to coincide with the retirement parade Dec. 1 – but he is not letting that deter him, particularly now that he has the support of Henderson’s widow, Sharyl-Ann.

“Bob was a very dedicated pilot,” she says. “He always told me he would never get in an aircraft he didn’t feel safe in, so I never anticipated something like that would happen.”

Originally from Nova Scotia – where half the Sea King fleet was based – the couple had made Victoria their home when Bob was stationed at 443.

Suddenly left widowed with three teenage children, Sharyl-Ann said she never considered leaving the Island. It was at her cottage in Nova Scotia this summer where she got the call from Newton asking if she would be in favour of the project.

Her response: “Of course, Bob would be so honoured.”

RELATED: New navy helicopter arrives at Sidney base

Jim Newton (left) stands with Sharyl-Ann Henderson, whose late husband Bob was killed in a helicopter crash near Saint John, New Brunswick while on duty with the Royal Canadian Air Force. The pair are trying to get a memorial sign erected along the Pat Bay Highway in honour of Bob and fellow pilot Wally Sweetman, members of 443 Squadron in Victoria, who were mentors to Newton as a young pilot. (Contributed/Jim Newton)

Other people move on because it doesn’t mean that much to them, she says, of losing a loved one. And, being a military wife she thinks the grieving process has taken longer because “you get used to them being away for long periods of time” and forget they won’t be coming home in a few months time.

“Sometimes you think no one even remembers,” she says over the phone some 25 years later.

“When your husband dies like that, it changes your whole future and you live with it every day.”

Sharyl-Ann says driving along Pat Bay Highway and seeing a sign dedicated to Bob and Wally would be “a nice reminder” but stresses all serving members who have died on duty need to be acknowledged.

At the time of the crash there was some controversy surrounding the safety of the helicopters, then more than 30 years old.

“They should have been retired a long time ago,” Newton says of the Sea Kings, passionate about getting the memorial in place, a small offering to the two men who shaped who he became.

“I want a permanent memorial sign,” he says. “They were two of the best pilots in the country.”


@kristyn_anthony
kristyn.anthony@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

kristyn.anthony@blackpress.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew

Logging company applies for injunction to remove blockades

Boma Brown won the Emerging Leader Award for her work founding the Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour. (Courtesy of Boma Brown)
Victoria SNIWWOC founder up for national women’s award for volunteer efforts

Victoria’s Boma Brown is a semi-finalist in the running for the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award

(Pixabay photo)
New program to provide recovery beds for at-risk Greater Victoria youth

It will aim to meet ‘health and social’ needs of wide range of youth

(Black Press Media file photo)
Aggressive bus passenger arrested in Saanich for uttering threats

Suspect had outstanding warrant for assault at bus stop, two assaults on BC Transit buses

Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about phase two in B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization plan as Premier John Horgan and Minister Arian Dix look on during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. reports 438 new COVID cases, 2 deaths

Long-term care outbreaks are decreasing

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

Vancouver and Victoria both have a MySafe machine to help reduce overdoses

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Vancouver Island sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Nanaimo store, cutting himself in the process

Most Read