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'He had a big heart': Father of fallen teenage wildland firefighter remembers his son

When 19-year-old Jaxon Billyboy graduated high school in Williams Lake in June, it was a proud moment for his father Sheldon Bowe.

“He was very resilient. He worked against the odds of growing up Indigenous, through addictions, abuse, through grieving, and loss. There is a lot that he went through, and he still got up and graduated and walked out and got a job,” said Bowe.

That job was wildland firefighting. Billyboy was hired by Tomahawk Ventures, a Kamloops-based company contracted by the provincial government to battle wildfires this summer.

Tomahawk Ventures team leader Josh Weisner took Billyboy under his wing. “He was very quiet, you know….reserved. But he was the first to listen, the first one to learn, the first to ask questions. It was was such a blessing to teach him.”

The Tomahawk crew wrapped a two-week assignment near Fort St. James on Monday, and split into two vehicles for the drive back to Kamloops base. Early Tuesday morning, the pickup truck that Billyboy, Kenneth Patrick, Blain Sonnenberg and another firefighter were riding in collided with a semi truck on the Trans-Canada highway. All four men died.

“I was in disbelief with my daughters, and I kind of still am in disbelief,” said Bowe. “But I am also content with his life choices, and where he came from to where he ended up.”

Bowe said his son wanted to give back, and wildland firefighting allowed him to do that.

“He’s always been a helper all his life,” said Bowe. “He had to discover himself, where he wanted to go, and he chose firefighting.”

”He was so willing,” added Weisner. “I knew he would be a great firefighter. I told him that, and encouraged him as much as I could in our short time together.”

There will be a vigil for Billyboy in Williams Lake on Saturday.

“He will be missed and loved by his family, his sisters and his brother, and his mom and stepdad,” said Bowe. “He always had a big heart, a heart of gold, and I will forever love him for that.”

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