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Memorial for fatal plane crash victims set up as two families mourn

Grieving students, family and faculty can leave messages of support for families of flight instructors killed on Monday

Mourners left flowers outside Mount Royal on Wednesday.

Jennifer Friesen/For Metro

Mourners left flowers outside Mount Royal on Wednesday.

Although questions about the fatal crash of a Mount Royal University flight continue, family statements make one thing clear: the experienced pilots were meticulous, loving family men proud to take to the skies as professionals.

No task was too small for Reynold Johnson, better known as Reyn, according to a statement issued by the flight instructor’s family after he was killed in a plane crash earlier this week.

Another instructor from Mount Royal University’s (MRU) aviation program, Jeffrey Bird, also died when the twin-engine TECNAM plane the two men were piloting crashed near Cochrane on Monday night.

Students and faculty at MRU were invited to sign a guestbook in memoriam, set up at the Bissett School of Business.

Outside, a modest memorial of a few bouquets had collected at the school’s campus. 

More than 60 students in the program and faculty now have a place to pay their respects.

Jeffery Bird, left, and Reynold

Courtesy/ Family and Facebook

Jeffery Bird, left, and Reynold "Reyn" Johnson have been identified as the two MRU instructors killed in a plane crash Monday.

“When you think about Reyn, two things come to mind: He was loving and caring and he was also meticulous and professional,” said a statement from the Johnson family issued Wednesday.

He is survived by his wife Brenda, his children Maryse and Lucas, and three grandchildren. 

“No task was too small to deserve his care and attention. As a pilot, he took pride in detail, even insisting on ironing his own shirts, not just to look professional, but because he thought that a job worth doing was worth doing right,” the statement continued.

Both pilots were experienced instructors, and the loss has shaken the tight knit aviation community at MRU and across Canada.

Bob Blakey, Bird’s uncle, described him as a devoted family man.

“I don't believe Jeff regarded anything as just a chore. He loved being with his children. I have this permanent image of him at family gatherings, carrying the smaller child in one arm while holding the other's little hand,” Blakey said. 

The Canadian Forces Member leaves behind his wife, Carly, and his children.

“He'd enjoy a conversation with anybody. I never saw him angry or even frustrated. Maybe when you've served your country in a war zone, you come home and don't sweat the small stuff,” Blakey said.

In a family tragedy like this one, he added Bird would be the rock to get everyone through.

Helen Pike/ Metro

The guest book of condolences is on the second floor of the university’s Bisset School of Business building, to get there passers-by walk up a flight of stairs with the view of a red single-seated Snowbird I aircraft, built in 1992, suspended in mid air.

On Tuesday, students packed into a small theatre to watch as MRU president David Docherty, teary-eyed, addressed the press. A large number of the students live in residence together, and spent the hours after the crash remembering the instructors they saw as family members.

The school stated that they’re helping families with memorial services, and when details are firmed up, they will share information with the community.

A memorial to celebrate Bird’s life has been arranged by the family. It will be held Sunday February 19, 2017 at 2 p.m. at the Bella Concert Hall Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts.

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