‘We’re all in this together’: N.S. pilot draws flight path in honour of missing fishermen

A Nova Scotia pilot with a special talent has taken to the skies once again — this time to show support for the families of missing fishermen in the Bay of Fundy.

“I wanted to send a message to the communities and especially the families that we’re all in this together,” said Dimitri Neonakis, a pilot from Dartmouth who has been drawing special flight paths in light of the tragedies Nova Scotia has experienced this year.

This week, Neonakis flew over Digby and Yarmouth in honour of the crewmen who went missing aboard the Chief William Saulis in Delaps Cove on Tuesday.

He drew what he titled “The Heavy Heart” — a heart weighed down by an anchor.

The six men known to have been on board the Chief William Saulis. Top row, from left: Captain Charles Roberts, Aaron Cogswell, Dan Forbes. Bottom row, from left: Eugene Francis, Michael Drake and Leonard Gabriel. (Facebook/CBC)

The same day the scallop dragger sent out an emergency beacon, one body was recovered — now confirmed by his family to be that of Michael Drake.

The rest of the crew — Aaron Cogswell, Leonard Gabriel, Dan Forbes, Eugene Francis and Charles Roberts, the vessel’s captain — have still not been found.

The RCMP is continuing to search for five missing men today.

“It has been tough, but I try to stay positive, send out positive messages through the air because I believe that positivity and support of each other, we can get through the toughest of the tough,” Neonakis said. 

Neonakis designed ‘The Heavy Heart’ in honour of the fishermen who were lost at sea. (Dimitri Neonakis/Facebook)

Neonakis said he worked with some people in Yarmouth and Digby to plan the flight path, while also helping promote a GoFundMe page for the families of the fishermen.

As of Sunday afternoon, more than $27,000 has been raised for the families.

How it all started

Neonakis started designing these flight paths in April, after 22 people died in Canada’s worst mass killing in recent history.

He simply flew a heart over the area of Portapique, N.S., to express his condolences to the community where the killing started.

“I wanted to tell them that I think of them, but there was no way I could do it. I wanted to be there. You can’t do it, so my only avenue was through the air,” he said at the time.

Private pilot Neonakis flew in a heart-shaped path over Portapique, N.S., in April following the news of the killing rampage that started in the small community. (FlightAware)

Neonakis has since drawn about 15 different patterns in Nova Scotia skies.

In May, he took to the sky several times — in hopes that three-year-old Dylan Elher who went missing in Truro would be found, in memory of Nova Scotia-born Capt. Jenn Casey who died after the jet she was in crashed, and in memory of the aircrew of the HMCS Fredericton, who died when their helicopter crashed in the Mediterranean Sea.

“I read the comments from thousands of people and I see that it brings some comfort to people and hope in times of a pandemic where we cannot be together,” he said.

The Chief William Saulis went missing in the Bay of Fundy early Tuesday morning. (Katherine Bickford)

Neonakis said he enjoys creating these flight paths but hopes he’ll get the opportunity to start drawing happy moments in time.

“I don’t want to be up there drawing flight paths for someone we lost,” he said.

“I hope this last one will be the last one. That’s all I hope for.”

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