Pilot of crashed helicopter an ‘exceptional’ aviator, friends say

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PETALING JAYA, April 5 — Clifford Fournier was a fun guy and a “darn good” pilot.

Those were the words of Fournier’s close friends as they gathered at his house in Tropicana Damansara yesterday following news of his passing.

“I just can’t believe it. I’m at a loss for words. We were together just two days ago,” said a distraught tycoon Tan Sri Syed Yusof Syed Nasir.

“Cliff turned 47 last Sunday and I wished him well. He phoned his wife Maria just this evening and they were supposed to have dinner together.”

Fournier, Maria and their daughters Alicia Nicole, Nina Kali and Sasha Ann in happier times. — Malay Mail pic
Fournier, Maria and their daughters Alicia Nicole, Nina Kali and Sasha Ann in happier times. — Malay Mail pic

Syed Yusof, who rushed to be with Maria, said she was in shock and refused to meet anyone.

“She gathered the children and locked themselves in the room. They are heart-broken and only very close friends and family members are here. We are still trying to come to terms with the loss.

“He was a darn good pilot ... very experienced. I’ve flown with him many times.”

Syed Yusof added Fournier was always ready to fly, even on short notice.

“He has never said no. He was always there when we needed him. During the floods in Kelantan, he helped supply aid to unreachable areas with his helicopter,” he said.

The former US marine officer from Ramsay, Minnesota was the director and senior pilot of Solaire Sdn Bhd, the exclusive dealer for Robinson helicopters in Malaysia. He was also a trusted source for those who were interested in buying helicopters in Asia.

Another close friend also described Fournier as an experienced and careful pilot.

“We have known each other for close to two decades and I am saddened over his passing.

“My heart goes out to his wife and their three daughters and their son who is 14 months old.

“I feel for the others too ... Tan Sri Jamaluddin Jarjis, Datuk Seri Azlin Alias ... but Cliff ... I am at a loss for words,” he said.

Fournier’s personal driver cum bodyguard G. Karuna said: “He was a good pilot, a good man who worked hard. He treated me as family.”

Fournier was a much sought after pilot among VVIPs, having flown Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah from Myanmar after the ruler took part in the ‘The Road to Mandalay” rally organised by the Endurance Rally Association in February.

Fournier’s close friends also took to social media upon learning about the tragedy.

On Facebook, Abbi Kanthasamy posted: “Please say a prayer for my buddy Cliff Fournier. His helicopter has just gone down. My thoughts are with you, Maria.”

Ani Jones posted: “I was hoping it wasn’t Cliff when I heard the news. Our prayers and thoughts are with Maria and the kids. RIP good man.”

On Twitter, Datuk Aubry Rahim Mennesson, Sultan Sharafuddin’s son-in-law posted: “Cliff Fournier, you were a great man and pilot, I will miss you. RIP. Fly high forever my friend while Gigi Chao ?posted: “Cliff Fournier was a great man, exceptional pilot, and close friend. Rest in peace Captain.”

Fournier leaves Maria, Sasha Annand, 11, Alicia Nicole,  nine, Nina Kali, five, and Kristopher.

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