As reported in the Bulletin on Tuesday, March 7, a new Search and Rescue Memorial was unveiled at the provincial legislature last week. The names of a Kimberley man and a Cranbrook woman are on that memorial.
On October 1, 1983, a four-seater search and rescue training flight went down in the St. Mary’s Lake area. In the crash and ensuing fire, Cynthia Griffith from Cranbrook and John Craig from Kimberley lost their lives. Two others, Bill Quilley and Blair Farish, suffered fractures and extensive burns requiring multiple surgeries and three months hospitalization in Calgary Foothills Hospital Burn Unit and a further several years of rehabilitation.
John Craig was the husband of Kimberley resident Judy Cave, and she and her daughter, Paula Craig-Carr flew to Victoria for the unveiling of the monument. They were joined by provincial dignitaries, family and friends.
Cave says her daughter was extremely gratified that her father’s name will live on.
Cave provided a little background on her husband and his work in Kimberley prior to his death.
John Craig was born in 1940 and grew up in Fernie. As a youngster he became involved in First Aid, mainly due to his mother, Gladys Craig, being an instructor with the Boy Scouts. In 1961, he moved to Kimberley and took a job apprenticing as an Instrument Mechanic with Cominco. He and Judy were married in 1963, and raised their daughters Wendy and Paula here. Around 1975, Judy recalls that he became very interested in first aid through competitions held within Cominco. That led to local, provincial and international competitions.
“The fearless foursome of Mike Harrison, Randy Smith, Len Hunt and John (plus many other alternates) put Kimberley on the map as being the number one team to beat.”
In 1977, his obsession with helping others led him to joining the local Kimberley and District Ambulance Society, which at that time was all volunteer. Then in the early 80s, the provincial government decided Kimberley was ready for full time ambulance personnel.
In 1982, John changed careers and became the first full Unit Chief at the Kimberley station. He was proud of his new position and wanted to changed the perception of the ‘scary ambulance’ by being more visual and even began going to schools to inform children that the ambulance was there to help and not to be afraid of.
He trained in every avenue that Search and Rescue had to offer, except th air.
“All family and friends knew of his fear of flying,” Judy said. “But he said, “If I’m going to help others, I need to overcome my own fears’. On October 1, he signed up for the SARS course at the Cranbrook Airport to become a ‘spotter’, and unfortunately, their practices mission became a dreaded reality search.”
The plane crashed in the St. Mary Valley and John died, along with fellow spotter Cynthia Griffith of Cranbrook.
“He was loved by his ‘ambulance family’ and was known for his love of family, his zest for life and his great sense of humour,” Judy said. “We are truly grateful to the committee that was responsible of rejecting this beautiful monument that helps keeping our dear John Craig’s memory alive.”