Skip to main content

HeliJet damaged by 'freak' lightning strike between Vancouver, Victoria


A commercial helicopter with 14 people on board landed safely in Victoria Tuesday after it was struck by lightning and damaged in what the company's president is calling a "freak" occurrence.

The HeliJet flight departed Vancouver's harbour at 9:11 a.m. and was midway through its routine traverse from the B.C. mainland to Vancouver Island when the strike occurred, HeliJet president and CEO Daniel Sitnam told CTV News.

Two of the helicopter's four tail rotor blades were shorn from the aircraft as it flew approximately 1,280 metres (4,200 feet) above sea level over the southern Gulf Islands.

Despite the damage, the helicopter landed safely in Victoria and all 12 passengers were medically cleared before departing. The two pilots were also checked over and are physically unharmed, according to the company.

"Both crewmembers are in good shape," Sitnam said. "They're back in Vancouver right now. They obviously have the day off and more as they require."

The Helijet president, who is a helicopter pilot himself, said he is proud of the two-pilot crew for their handling of the "extremely rare" incident.

"It would be a very challenging circumstance for a crewmember on the aircraft," he said.

"One can imagine possibly a loud bang would be heard – a flash of lightning – as if you maybe saw God. From there on it's difficult to ascertain what would happen going forward other than managing yourself and going through all the training procedures."

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says it has been notified and is currently collecting data on the incident.

The Sikorsky S-76 helicopter will remain at the Victoria heliport until the safety board clears it for removal to the company's facility at the Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C.

A section of the Helijet helicopter's tail appeared damaged shortly after it landed in Victoria on Oct. 24, 2023. (CTV News)

The region where the lightning strike was reported was under a special weather statement at the time, as Environment and Climate Change Canada warned of heavy rains and high winds over the southern Gulf Islands.

Nonetheless, Sitnam says the air carrier's executive team found no reports of lightning activity in the area prior to the strike or after.

"We have identified there was no lightning in the air everywhere on the South Coast other than this unusual lightning strike that happened to us," he said. "So we are kind of scratching our heads over that one. It's kind of a needle-in-the-haystack scenario from our standpoint." Top Stories

Stay Connected