Bonded by a decades-old tragedy, Jim Newton and Sharyl-Ann Henderson are moving forward with a common mission.
On April 28, 1994, Henderson’s husband, Bob, and fellow Sea King pilot Wally Sweetman died when their Sea King helicopter slammed into a hillside near St. John, N.B.
“It’s a hard thing to remember,” Henderson told Global News.
“It devastated our squadron. It was terrible,” said Newton, a former Sea King pilot.
The Victoria-based 443 Squadron pilots had been transferring the Sea King to their home base in Patricia Bay when an engine malfunction caused the fatal crash. Two crew members survived.
“Certainly, we didn’t anticipate that (Bob) would be gone at 47 years of age,” recalled Henderson.
“They taught me how to be a pilot,” said Newton, who now wants the pair to be memorialized on a Vancouver Island highway.
“They taught me lots of skills, and I had a phenomenal relationship with them and I will never forget them.”
Newton, who flew Sea Kings with Bob and Sweetman, has written B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena suggesting that a section of the Patricia Bay Highway that runs alongside 443 Squadron outside of Victoria be renamed or marked in honour of the fallen pilots.
“It would be nice to have some acknowledgement, although it’s coming up on 25 years since they both passed,” said Henderson.
WATCH: Sea King helicopters finally ready for full retirement on Canada’s East Coast
In June 2011, The Trans-Canada Highway between Langley and Abbotsford was officially dedicated as the “Highway of Heroes” to honour and remember Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan.
Newton says even a memorial sign for Bob and Sweetman along the Patricia Bay Highway, also known as Highway 17, would be a nice gesture.
The Royal Canadian Air Force will officially retire the Sea King helicopter in festivities planned from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1 at the same Victoria-area base the fallen pilots once called home.
“It would be a proud moment to also honour Bob and Wally at the same time,” said Newton.
“I really feel it’s important to acknowledge all those that give their lives in the service of their country,” added Henderson.
“For the families that remain behind, we live with it every day — and that’s for the rest of your life.”