Courtenay man killed in plane crash remembered as ‘beacon of kindness’

A Courtenay man who friends describe as “a bright light” and “a beacon of kindness” was among the 18 Canadians killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday.

Micah Messent was on board Flight ET302 when it crashed just minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for Nairobi, Kenya. Messent had been selected to be a part of a delegation attending the fourth United Nations Assembly of the Environment.

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All 157 people aboard were killed.

In a Facebook post two days before the flight, Messent expressed his excitement at being chosen to attend the United Nations event in Kenya.

“Pretty stoked to announce that I’ve been chosen by United Nations Association in Canada as a member of their delegation for the 4th United Nations Assembly on the Environment.

“I’m headed to Kenya tomorrow where I’ll have the chance to meet with other passionate youth and leaders from around the world and explore how we can tackle the biggest challenges that are facing our generation.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity and want to thank all the people in my life who have helped me get this far. Wish me luck!”

Condolences poured in on Facebook.

Rebecca Pearson said she worked with Messent at the Ministry of Environment. “He was such a bright light,” she wrote. “He made me smile every time I saw him at the office.”

“Another young, bright soul taken too soon,” wrote Alisha Mae.

Danny Tran said Messent “will always be remembered as a beacon of kindness,” while Stephanie Mannix described him as “a bright and passionate soul.”

Messent’s family has not been giving interviews.

Messent graduated from Courtenay’s G.P. Vanier Secondary School in 2013, and went on to earn a BA in Indigenous Studies at Vancouver Island University, graduating in 2017. VIU issued a statement saying it is “greatly saddened” by Messent’s death.

“Micah was an engaged member of our community, contributing his time, energy and talents to his fellow students,” the statement said. “Our hearts go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.”

VIU Indigenous studies professor Laurie Meijer Drees said Messent’s classmates are devastated by his death.

“It was a small cohort of very smart and creative young people who had an unusual bond with one another,” she said. “They stuck together since graduation.”

She called Messent a remarkable young man. “He was bright, very enthusiastic, and what was unusual about him was he was particularly community-minded,” Meijer Drees said.

“In university, we often have really smart students who pull ahead of the pack, but he was very keen to have everyone along with him.”

The group had a global focus, which she said helped lead to his opportunity with the UN.

Counselling was made available for students and university employees.

The First Nations Leadership Council said Messent was a member of the Red River Metis Nation in Manitoba and was raised as the youngest of five siblings in the Comox Valley.

He was a “well-liked” member of a 12-month Aboriginal Youth Internship Program who served his placement with B.C. Parks, it said in a statement. The placement led to a full-time position in government with the B.C. Parks Indigenous relations team.

Messent, an avid sailor, had plans to return to school in the future to pursue a law degree, it added.

Ocean Wise said Messent and another crash victim, Danielle, Moore, were part of its Ocean Bridge program, which “empowers Canadian youth to make a difference towards ocean conservation.” The two were selected to join a Canadian youth delegation to the United Nations environmental assembly, it said.

In an online profile on Ocean Bridge, Messent said while growing up, he spent a lot of time exploring various communities across Vancouver Island with his family, “sailing around the islands and inlets located throughout the Salish Sea … learning the rich histories and teachings associated with various traditional territories.”

He listed his favourite activities as surfing, sailing, biking, stand-up paddleboarding “and pretty much any other activity that involves being outdoors.”

— With files from Vancouver Sun and The Associated Press

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