To his sisters, he was the “Christmas baby.” To friends, he was a prankster who loved to perform for people.
But this year, Squamish resident Jerry Burns’s family will be spending its first Christmas without him in over four decades. He was killed in a fatal plane crash on the way to Toba Inlet on Nov. 16.
A lifelong Squamish resident, Burns, 42, is survived by his wife Carrie and two children: 13-year-old stepdaughter Jessica and five-year-old daughter Taylor.
Ivan Jensen, 45, was a friend of his for 30 years. He remembers him as a joker who loved to do “funny things.”
“It was always a good time when we got to spend some time together,” he said. “Ride our ATVs, we enjoyed doing that. He enjoyed mountain biking, fishing, walking our dogs, he loved camping.”
Born Dec. 25, 1965, Burns grew up in Squamish, attending Brackendale Elementary School. He met Jensen in his teen years. They didn’t attend high school together, as Jensen was three years older, but they hung out together within the same group of friends.
In high school Burns dated Jensen’s sister, Lone, who later became his first wife. Lone later died of lupus that turned into secondary pulmonary disease.
“They were sweethearts for a little while, I don’t remember how long it was,” Jensen said.
After quitting Brackendale Secondary School in Grade 10, Burns
went on to work in Squamish’s logging industry until it started to die out
approximately seven years ago.
“All of us did, mostly went out and worked,” Jensen said.
Burns then went on to work for Graham Construction, a company
that was building a facility for Capilano College in Squamish until Peter
Kiewit and Sons took over the project about five years ago.
From there on he was employed by Kiewit and worked on every
segment of the Highway 99 improvement project, except at Whistler. He was
working at the Horseshoe Bay segment when work started to dry up. A crew
working at Lions Bay was brought over to the Horseshoe Bay segment and that
“pushed out” Burns’s crew, according to Jensen.
He then found short-term work on Plutonic Power Corporation’s
Toba Montrose project on Toba Inlet, a fjord north of Powell River on the
The $660 million run-of-river project, when completed, will
include a powerhouse that can generate enough energy for 75,000 homes,
according to Plutonic Power Corporation.
Burns’s job would have been delivering equipment such as
loaders, excavators and bulldozers to a camp near the project. Though he needed
the work, he was very reluctant to leave his family, even though it would only
be short-term until he could work for Kiewit on the Gateway Project.
“I remember him saying… that he didn’t really want to go,”
Jensen said. “He’d done the logging camps in his younger years, but now he’s
got a young family so he didn’t want to leave them for a three-week period.”
Burns would only be there until Christmastime.
His first trip out to the camp began the morning of Nov. 16, in
a Grumman Goose seaplane that took off from Vancouver International Airport on
its way to the Toba Montrose camp. Eight people were on board; five of them
were Kiewit employees.
The plane crashed at about 10:30 a.m., 20 minutes after
takeoff, on Thormanby Island off the Sunshine Coast. Seven people on board were
killed, including Burns.
Jensen was watching the news that night when he saw a story
about a plane crash.
“I saw the top story for just a second,” he said. “I knew he
was going to camp, I didn’t know what day, for a second I thought, is he on the
Jensen then went back to watching a football game when one of
Burns’s sisters called him. It was the third time in eight years that the Burns
children experienced a death in the family.
“His mom passed about eight years ago, but his dad passed about
three months ago,” Jensen said. “It’s another tough stretch for the family
This is the second time in three months that a Squamish
resident has been on a Grumman Goose plane that crashed.
On Aug. 3, a Grumman G-21 Goose was carrying Lorne Clowers, a
56-year-old log loader with the Seaspan company. It was headed to Kyuquot Sound
when it caught fire and crashed. Clowers survived but spent just under two
weeks at Victoria General Hospital with a broken pelvis.
Pacific Coast Airlines, the airline that carried Burns, grounded its fleet of Grumman Goose aircraft after the crash. The planes were flying again by Nov. 19.