DRUMHELLER— A war hero and retired judge is being identified as the pilot who died in a plane crash near Alberta’s badlands.
Friends and colleagues told CTV News that 88-year-old Doug Matheson was the pilot of the small plane that went down near Castor, Alta., earlier in the week.
Matheson was a retired Court of Queen’s Bench Justice and had been flying for over 65 years.
He was a fighter pilot during the Second World War when, at the age of 22, he was shot down over German-occupied France while escorting a fleet of American bombers in his Spitfire.
He was later arrested by the Germans and sent to a prisoner of war camp. While there, Matheson took part in tunnelling operations for the so-called “Great Escape.”
He was eventually released when the war ended.
Friends said Matheson was a man with a lot of stories to tell.
“It’s the loss of a great Canadian,” said friend Tom Hinderks. “Justice Matheson was more than just an aviator. He was a true Canadian hero, an example for all of us to follow and a really important person to the community and the country.”
Matheson was found dead in the wreckage of his downed plane on Wednesday after the wreckage was spotted Tuesday by search and rescue teams.
Unstable weather in the area made it difficult for investigators to gain access to the site, a swampy area filled with brush.
The Beechcraft Bonanza plane vanished after leaving Edmonton’s City Centre Airport on Monday.
Matheson was scheduled to take a flight over the Badlands and return to Edmonton within a few hours of taking off.
A report on the cause of the crash could take up to a year.