7 dead in B.C. plane crash


by Associated Press


Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 24 at 2:24 PM

Video: Seven dead in B.C. plane crash

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The sole survivor of a plane crash Sunday that killed seven others told his rescuers that he scrambled away as the wreckage exploded behind him.

Burned and bleeding, he made his way to a beach on Thormanby Island where the plane went down, where a Coast Guard auxiliary crew in an inflatable boat saw him emerge from thick brush onto the shore wrapped in a yellow sheet.

Drew McKee, 69, a spokesman for the rescue crew, said the man was waving to them and looked like he was in terrible pain. McKee said his face, chest and hands were burned and he had some gashes on his body.

He said that while they transported the man from island to nearby Halfmoon Bay, about 30 miles northwest of Vancouver on British Columbia's mainland coast, he told them what had happened.

"He didn't have to fight his way out of the plane, because it was in pieces," McKee said. "He got out, and pretty close to after he got out, the plane went up with a whoomph."

McKee said the man had been dozing before the crash and told them he thought he had been knocked out for a few minutes before waking up and scrambling to safety.

"I'm not sure when he got his burns," McKee said. "Anyway he figured he was the only one left."

The man told the crew it took him several hours to make his way down a creek bed to the ocean where the Coast Guard crew spotted him.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman Cpl. Peter Thiessen said the survivor, a 35-year-old male, was in stable condition at a hospital despite the "significant injuries and burns" he sustained in the crash.

Thiessen declined to release the identity of the survivor or anyone else on board the aircraft.

Coast Guard and Search and Rescue crews had started scouring the area of Thormanby Island, off B.C.'s Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver, after a resident reported hearing an aircraft in distress about 10:40 Sunday morning.

Not long afterward, the rescue center received a call from Pacific Coastal Airlines, reporting that one of its planes was missing. The Grumman Goose amphibious aircraft was located around 2:15 p.m. on the sparsely populated island in Georgia Strait.

The plane had left Vancouver International Airport at 10:15 a.m. on a charter flight taking personnel and supplies to an energy project under construction north of Powell River.

Capt. Rob Mulholland flew a Canadian Forces helicopter which lowered a four-man search and rescue crew to the crash site. He said the plane had cut a large swath through the trees.

"The first thing that I thought when I saw it was that there was no way that anyone could have survived," Mulholland said.

"It was a very violent impact," he said. "The aircraft was broken apart into many pieces, a large debris field with many post-crash fires."

Spencer Smith, vice president of the family run Pacific Coastal Airlines, said the survivor was a passenger. He said the pilot, who was among the dead, was quite experienced.

Lt. Marguerite Dodds-Lepinski, with the Joint Rescue Coordination Center, confirmed the seven deaths.

Smith said Pacific Coastal would be alerting the families of those killed in the crash. No identities were released.

He said the company has voluntarily suspended its float plane operation until the company has had an opportunity to talk with all of its employees.

Investigators with Canada's Transportation Safety Board were to try to make it to the crash site Monday, said agency spokesman Bill Yearwood.

In August, five people were killed when another Pacific Coastal Airlines' Goose crashed on Vancouver Island.

The Transportation Safety Board has yet to issue its report on the earlier crash, but investigators have made progress in that probe, Yearwood said.

"We didn't discover any evidence to indicate a malfunction of the aircraft," he said.