John Driftmier in Costa Rica. (Facebook)
Canadian filmmaker John Driftmier has died while shooting the Discovery Channel Canada reality show "Dangerous Flights." He was 30.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, the Ottawa-based cameraman was filming the second season of the aircraft delivery series in Kenya on Sunday morning when his plane crashed. Both he and the pilot were killed.
“John wanted to do some extra aerial footage, and a plane was found for him to jump in and somebody who was good at flying those planes flew with him,” said Nicola Merola, a producer at the Montreal independent production company Pixcom, which hired Driftmier. “It’s very tragic news. John was a friend, and we worked together on all those projects. He was very passionate about what he does. He felt very alive when he was filming on those series."
Discovery Canada president Paul Lewis released the following statement after news of the cameraman's death broke: “This is a day of great sadness for us all. The Canadian production community has lost a brilliant young man who had the promise of a big future. We will miss his many talents.”
Born in Calgary, Driftmier attended Western Canada High School before studying history and film at Simon Fraser University. As an adult, he moved to Ottawa with his wife, Carolyn, and worked as a director and cameraman on various adventure reality series like "Highway Thru Hell," "Licence to Drill" and "Ice Pilots NWT." He also co-created the Discovery series "Pyros," about a team of pyrotechnicians.
See also: Mindy McCready dead in apparent suicide
“He was adventurous to say the least,” Michael Francis, who worked with him for two seasons on "Ice Pilots," told the Calgary Herald. “I always said he was going to be the most successful person I knew because he had that personality that wouldn’t quit. He had this great affection for life. He refused to say ‘no.’ He was always pushing forward and he always had grandiose plans.”
As a director and director of photography on "Dangerous Flights," Driftmier, who had planned to return home Monday, had reportedly been to a staggering 30 countries last year.
“He never sat still,” Francis said. “I remember we were in Yellowknife and every time we had a day off, he’d be the one who would say, ‘Let’s go do this. Let’s go race around the lake. Or let’s go tobogganing.’ He always had something on the go.”
Despite Driftmier's taste for adventure, friend Michael Bodnarchuk, who works on "Ice Pilots NWT," told the Herald that everyone was "shell-shocked" by his death.
"We know there’s inherent risk in working around aircraft, and we take whatever means we can to protect ourselves to be aware and play it safe," Bodnarchuk said, adding, "I don’t think John would have gotten in any airplane that he thought could potentially be hazardous to his health."
Pixcom is reportedly arranging to bring Driftmier's body back to Canada, and the funeral will likely take place in Ottawa, Merola said. Memorial services are also being planned in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Calgary.
"I saw him as a son and a very valuable member of the family," Les Allen, Driftmier's father-in-law, told the CBC yesterday. "He's touched people all over the world. That's the tragedy of it all. His career was just on an upward curve. He had irons in the fire."