A prominent city defence lawyer was killed Saturday in a skydiving accident near Kamloops Airport — a “devastating” loss to the Interior’s legal community, according to a number of local lawyers.
Don Campbell died following a jump just before 1:30 p.m. The 61-year-old had been practising law in Kamloops for 35 years. An extreme-sport enthusiast and avid skydiver, Campbell had more than 4,000 jumps under his belt and had competed at world championships in France and Dubai.
“All these cheesy things come to mind — he lived life full-on, he was extremely adventurous, he was outgoing, he was hardworking,” said defence lawyer Jeremy Jensen, who shared office space with Campbell since 2012.
“He was very intelligent, he had an incredible command of the English language and he was a man that was in the courtroom more than any other lawyer I know. In fact, he had the skill of being in up to three courtrooms at the same time.”
Campbell raised the occasional ire of Kamloops judges by sometimes double- or triple-booking himself for appearances. But, according to Jensen, he was usually forgiven.
“He worked largely with indigent clients, sometimes for little or no remuneration,” Jensen told KTW.
“Judges recognized that. I think everybody appreciated what he was doing. Even before Don passed, I always thought if he left the profession or became a judge, just what a huge void there would be.”
An army brat, Campbell graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in the mid-1980s before practising his entire legal career in Kamloops. He started as an articling student at Fulton and Company. Soon after, he founded Don Campbell Law.
Jay Michi said Campbell’s vast experience — especially his work with troubled clients — was invaluable to young lawyers.
“A lot of times, if I got into really tough situations where I thought things were hopeless, I’d give Don a call and he would talk me out of my misery,” Michi said.
“He’d remind me that you can’t save the world, you can only do your best. He was often the person I’d call for that, even if it was 11 o’clock at night.”
Michi said he called Campbell for help on Friday, the day before his death.
“I was trying to get him to come down to the courthouse to help me with something,” Michi said. “He said he couldn’t. He was spending the day with his wife, thank God.”
Campbell spoke often of his skydiving exploits, never shy to share photos of himself thousands of feet above ground with any client, colleague or passerby at the Kamloops Law Courts.
“That was his No. 1 thing aside from his family,” Michi said. “He took his work seriously and he put in a lot of hours, but it was all to be able to have fun.”
As much as he loved jumping from airplanes, Campbell was no slouch in the courtroom. He defended clients charged in some of the most high-profile crimes in Kamloops’ recent history.
As recently as March, Campbell obtained an acquittal for a client charged with murder after a man was beaten to death outside a North Shore bar.
Federal Crown prosecutor Anthony Varesi described Campbell as a “top-notch” defence lawyer who had potential clients lined up out the door.
“He knew the law very well and he was very fair,” Varesi told KTW. “You could always trust him and he ran trials efficiently. He got right to the issue, he admitted what had to be admitted and he streamlined matters. Judges really appreciate that.”
Varesi acknowledged that streamlining could have been a product of the volume of Campbell’s practice, but said the late lawyer’s clients were served exceptionally well.
“He did a lot, but he always got everything done, somehow. He was a very popular counsel. Accused individuals, so many of them wanted him to represent them,” Varesi said.
“It’s a huge loss to the legal community. He was a good friend and a good man and he will be deeply missed. It’s really a tragic, devastating loss.”
Dozens of lawyers, court staff and Crown staff — many of them dabbing tears — gathered in Courtroom 2D on Monday morning for a brief, impromptu moment of silence and memorial.
Plans for a formal service are still being determined.
The BC Coroners Service has confirmed it is investigating the incident.