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Family and friends mourn loss of Colin Dionne

Helicopter crash ends life of legend in the community
Kyle Wells

Family, friends and coworkers are remembering and grieving over the loss of Colin Dionne who died in a helicopter crash near Stewart, BC on Sunday, July 31.

Dionne, who was born in Kelowna and moved with his family to Texada Island at age 11, died in a Vancouver Island Helicopter. He and Mathieu Lefebvre-Masse, 32, a past resident of Lund, who lived in Victoria and also perished, carried out mineral exploration on the Nelson Glacier for Coast Mountain Geological. Pilot of the helicopter, Randy Lambert, 35, from Abbotsford, also died.

Dionne’s friends describe him as a legend in the local mountain climbing scene on the upper Sunshine Coast. He was a pioneer for rope work with Powell River Search and Rescue, an expert timber frame carpenter and a notable asset with environmental education programs.

By all accounts, Dionne lived a rich life full of adventures and accomplishments, all while making a positive impact on the lives of others. Dionne was 40 at the time of his death and by that age had already made a huge impact in the community and in the lives of those who knew him.

Dionne’s older sister Sabrina Chalupiak described her little brother as a one-of-a-kind person. She spoke of his trips to Antarctica, South America, New Zealand and other areas of the world and his overwhelming love of the outdoors. She said his relationship as uncle to her two sons, Martin and Chris, was inspirational.

“I think Colin was just a person who never stopped looking for new adventures, new things to do, new things to learn, new things to see,” said Chalupiak. “He was just such a unique person.”

As a passionate mountain and rock climber, Dionne was instrumental in establishing rock climbing in the Powell River area and is referred to by some as a grandfather of the local climbing scene.

Michael Conway-Brown, another rock climbing pioneer in Powell River and friend of Dionne’s, said that since starting climbing over 20 years ago Dionne, who Conway-Brown describes as a natural climber, worked hard to develop the infrastructure for the local scene. Dionne’s greatest legacy as a climber is nearly singlehandedly developing the climbing routes for Eldred Valley, one of the best climbing locations in the area.

For 12 years Dionne worked with Search and Rescue as a key member and eventually leader of its rope team. It took thousands of training hours for Dionne to reach his role of rope team leader and his commitment led to top marks at training courses and invitations to teach as a guest instructor.

“He was very, very talented at what he did with the practical end of it and also the leadership end of it,” said Search and Rescue assistant manager Karen Whyard. “He was very calm, very determined, a guy that you really want in that position...We’re all feeling personally the great loss.”

Dean Flick was best man at Dionne’s wedding to Christie Lepitre-Dionne on July 16, 2011, only two weeks before his death. Flick met Dionne while on a rock climbing road trip in Nevada. He said when he first met Dionne he thought he looked like Thor, god from Norse mythology, with long thick hair, bushy beard and formidable frame. Despite his imposing appearance, Flick said he will remember Dionne as a calm, thoughtful man whose greatest strengths were found in his humour, his passion for life, his kindness and his friendship.

“Colin really is what legends are made of,” said Flick. “Colin’s spirit is so strong and now that he has left us so many feel such a great, great loss...Colin lived a great life, he lived a balanced life. I’ll remember him every day for the rest of my life.”

There will be a casual gathering to honour Dionne at 2 pm on Saturday, August 27 at Stillwater, above the bluffs.

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