Philemon Wright High School teacher dies in plane crash

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by Mark Burgess on July 29, 2010

Michael Robinson

Michael Robinson

A Philemon Wright High School teacher, fondly remembered by many Wakefield students as “understanding,” “compassionate” and “hilarious,” died July 24 in a plane crashed near James Bay in northern Quebec.

Michael Robinson, a 41-year-old science and math teacher at Philemon for the past six years, was one of two men who died when the plane that was carrying five passengers went down shortly after take-off. The DHC-2 Beaver float plane was transporting the group for a fishing trip after taking off from La Grande Riviere airport, near Radisson. The pilot, Glen Arsenault of Val-d’Or, Que., also died.

Fellow teacher Archie Smith, who lives in Wakefield, said Robinson often took trips to northern Quebec and beyond, sometimes canoeing for five or six weeks at a time.

“It was his passion,” he said.

Some of Robinson’s students said he also ran camping trips for the school’s Centre of Excellence program.

Zoe Kirschner and Jean Pavey, former Philemon students who live in Wakefield, remember Robinson as a caring teacher who “went the extra mile” for his students.

“He never failed to get his point across when trying to get people to understand,” said Pavey.

They also remember him as a light-hearted figure who did Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions, or mimicked them in “girly-boy voices.” Pavey said it wasn’t uncommon for Robinson to surprise her with a “Yo, Pavage” from down the hall.

Recent grads Whitney Chicoine and Justine Nolan, whom Robinson coached in soccer, said it became part of their daily routine to stop by his class and say hi even though he wasn’t their teacher.

Smith said Robinson, who is married and has a young son, had tremendous rapport with his students.

“He’ll be very much missed,” he said.

Surete du Quebec officials said weather conditions were fine July 24 and that mechanical failure or pilot error were the likely causes of the crash. The Transportation Safety Board said it could take up to a year before determining the cause.

It was the fourth crash of a small plane in Quebec since the beginning of June.