Friends remember Albertan victim as ‘big brother’ to all
As efforts continue today to recover the body of a 27-year-old Alberta man from an Arctic lake, friends and family remember him as a kind-hearted soul who loved life, his friends and new wife.
Jaxon Smith, who grew up in central Alberta before moving to the Northwest Territories, was in the backseat of a Toyota Landcruiser driving across the frozen surface of Giauque Lake when the ice suddenly cracked and split, plunging the vehicle into the icy water.
Two men managed to jump free and make it to shore early Sunday morning, but Smith became trapped in the SUV as it sank to the bottom.
His long-time friend, Elizabeth Leitch, said Smith had a heart of gold and was everyone’s "big brother," always making sure his friends were happy.
"I was in complete shock when I found out, and I still am," she said from Yellowknife yesterday. "He was just such a great guy. Everybody loved him."
Smith enjoyed the outdoors and was married this past summer, taking a honeymoon to Barbados in July, she said.
He was employed at an exploration site at the Discovery Mine and had been off-duty, searching for wood to build an ice-fishing shack before the accident occurred, said Const. Roxanne Dreilch of the Yellowknife RCMP.
Cold-water divers scoured the lake for his body yesterday, but the team had to return with more detailed equipment today that could reach the lake’s murky depths.
Smith’s nephew, Shayne Feary, wrote on an online tribute page saying he was one of the best uncles anyone could ever ask for.
"He has done so much for me and I wish I could have told him and repaid him for everything," he said.
The family is planning a remembrance service for his friends in Edmonton this weekend while a funeral will be held in Yellowknife on Friday.
"You don’t ever prepare for something like this," Leitch said. "It truly is a tragedy and a loss for all of us who knew him and he’ll be in our hearts forever."