Skip to main content

'A big loss for everyone': Friends, family mourn Quebec man killed by Israeli airstrike in Gaza


Friends and family members are mourning the death of Jacob Flickinger, a Canadian military veteran and father to a one-year-old son who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, amid calls for an investigation into the attack.

Flickinger, 33, and six other workers with the World Central Kitchen aid organization were killed in the strikes on April 1 after their convoy had just delivered food to a warehouse in central Gaza and was driving away, the group said.

When his friend, David Gilbert, got a call from Flickinger's partner telling him that he had been killed, he didn't believe it at first.

"I think it was the day after, when I see his face on the news that I really realized that my friend is dead. I was surprised because, you know, I was thinking this kind of man was, like, immortal," Gilbert said in an interview with CTV News.

He also had a hard time believing it was true because Flickinger had told him that he was operating in a safe zone inside Gaza.

David Gilbert speaks about his friend Jacob Flickinger, 33, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Monday, April 1, 2024. (CTV News)

Gilbert said he is remembering him as "a great human, a man of honour" who was a role model for his young son and always wanted to help out. He grew up without a father in his life, so Flickinger was a father figure to him when he was younger, he said. 

"I'm in hell, I'm in [a lot of] pain because, you know, Jacob was a big pillar for my life. And it's very difficult," he said. 

"So it's a big loss for everyone."

Palestinians inspect a vehicle with the logo of the World Central Kitchen wrecked by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. A series of airstrikes killed seven aid workers from the international charity, leading it to suspend delivery Tuesday of vital food aid to Gaza. (AP Photo/Ismael Abu Dayyah)

'A proud son of Canada,' father says

Flickinger's parents described their son as a "loving" father and husband who devoted his life to serving others. They said he had volunteered with World Central Kitchen previously delivering aid to people in Mexico after Hurricane Otis.

"I'm so proud of him and yesterday I was just telling John that we've lost our son but in a way I'm kind of not surprised that he died that way," his mother, Sylvie Labrecque, told CTV News.

John Flickinger and Sylvie Labrecque speak about their son, Jacob, who was killed by an Israeli airstrike while delivering food to starving people in Gaza. (CTV News)

He leaves behind his partner, Sandy, who is devastated by his death, said his father, John Flickinger. They had just moved to Costa Rica to start a new life as a family before he was killed.

"Her world has been shattered. All their hopes and dreams are gone so she needs to rebuild her life," he said.

John also condemned the actions of the Israeli military as he waits for his son's body to be brought back to Quebec.

"What's happening now is criminal. Jacob was killed delivering food to starving women and children, and his coworkers with the World Central Kitchen, were killed. There have been over 200 aid workers since the conflict began that have been trying to serve the population that have been killed. Stop the killing there, feed the families. That would be [my] message," he said.

John called his son a "proud son of Canada" who sacrificed his life serving others.

"He knew the risk going into Gaza. He told me, 'Dad, people are starving to death and I can maybe help a little.' And he knew there was a risk, he took it anyway when he found out they needed boots on the ground there," he said.

"He died serving others so we're very proud and Canada should be proud of his service."

Airstrike like this doesn't 'just happen': Trudeau

John announced the death of his son in a Facebook post on Wednesday, writing that he "died doing what he loved and serving others through his work with the World Central Kitchen," and that his family was going through a "heart-breaking tragedy."

The family launched a GoFundMe to help raise funds to cover the cost of the funeral and to set up a trust fund for Flickinger's son.

Flickinger, who was born in Saint-Georges, Que., served in the Canadian Armed Forces from 2008 to 2019. He joined the Royal 22e Regiment, known as the Van Doos, in 2012 and was a master corporal when he retired from the army in 2019.

The other workers killed were British military veterans John Chapman, 57, James Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47. Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, 43, from Australia, and Polish national Damian Sobol, 35, were also killed, as well as Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25, who worked as a driver for the charity.

This combination of photos provided by World Central Kitchen/, shows seven aid workers who were killed in Gaza Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Israeli airstrikes that killed the aid workers in Gaza reverberated around the world, as friends and relatives mourned the losses of those who were delivering food to besieged Palestinians with the charity World Central Kitchen. From top left to right: Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom of Australia, Damian Soból of Poland, and Jacob Flickinger of the U.S. and Canada. From bottom left to right: John Chapman of Britain, James Henderson of Britain and James Kirby of Britain. (World Central Kitchen/ via AP)

World Central Kitchen has called for a full, third-party, independent investigation into the airstrikes and demanded the Israeli government preserve all evidence related to the attack. 

"This was a military attack that involved multiple strikes and targeted three WCK vehicles. All three vehicles were carrying civilians; they were marked as WCK vehicles; and their movements were in full compliance with Israeli authorities, who were aware of their itinerary, route, and humanitarian mission," the aid organization said in a statement on Thursday.

"An independent investigation is the only way to determine the truth of what happened, ensure transparency and accountability for those responsible, and prevent future attacks on humanitarian aid workers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the deaths a tragic mistake but also something that "happens in war," he said. But on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired back, saying he "takes issue" with how the Israeli leader characterized the attack.

"When he said, 'Well, this just happens in conflicts and in wartime.' No, it doesn't just happen and it shouldn't just happen when you have [seven] workers for an extraordinary organization like World Central Kitchen risking their lives every day in an incredibly dangerous place to deliver food to people who are experiencing a horrific humanitarian catastrophe," Trudeau said at a news conference in Winnipeg.

"That is not OK that they get hit by targeted missiles like this."

With files from CTV Montreal's Kelly Greig and The Canadian Press Top Stories

Stay Connected