Thursday, January 13, 2005


Landed In God's Catcher's Mitt

It was open-water season of 1987. I was flying a Beaver on Edo 4580 floats for Little Grand Rapids Air Service. I was flying old C-GJJG south from a fishing camp north of Pauingassi, Manitoba, returning to Base. I had heard some murmurings on the radio about an aircraft being in trouble, but I had no concrete details. Then I received some information that made all the plaque in my arteries come loose.

"It is Rollie", Oliver said, "and he is down alongside the Berens River!" My heart leapt into my mouth, and I had to re-swallow it as one would a goldfish! Rollie flew for a local air carrier, and Oliver flew a twin-engined aircraft for Southeast Resource Development Council, which is a group of 9 Native communities east of Lake Winnipeg. He was actually in the area of the downed aircraft and said he would go take a look. He was also Rollie's brother! The reason anxiety was turning me into a noodle? My wife and 2 small daughters were onboard the aircraft that crashed!

Oliver made it to the crash-site and circled, and said he could see everyone on a rock away from the airplane, and that the aircraft was still upright. I found this amazing as one who knows the area well. Oliver also said a helicopter was on the way from Berens River. Of course I wanted to go to the scene myself, but obviously the helicopter was the prudent choice.

I landed back at Base and phoned the air carrier's office in Berens River to check the status of the passengers. The helicopter had made one trip, and was now returning with the second load. The passengers were flown to Berens River as it was the closest community and had a Nursing Station and airstrip. The passengers would be observed, and flown to Little Grand Rapids the next day. I finally talked to my wife, and she assured me she and my kids were OK. Relief, with a capital R!!! She had held our infant tight, and our 2 year old had bumped through the forced landing quite well. Her Cabbage Patch doll, Bernice, had lost it's hat in the crash. My daughter Kelly was quite upset. She mentioned it on the chopper ride out and on the next trip the chopper pilot retrieved it! (They evacuated the women and children first, of course.)

My wife and kids arrived in Little Grand Rapids the next day, and man, was I happy to see them! Life is so fragile.

It was learned that the engine on the aircraft, a Cessna 206, had seized. Rollie had made it to an opening beside the river and set it down upright. The nose gear, prop, and wings were damaged. The reason there wasn't more damage or injury was because the airplane had a belly-pod!! The aircraft skidded across the swamp and stayed upright, but the belly-pod was obliterated! The passengers had quickly evacuated, but one fellow seemed to be in distress. It was discovered he had survived the crash OK, but was still feeling the effects of all the 5 Star Whisky he had consumed the night previous. What a way to sober up!

This was a number of years ago, folks, and I'll give you an update. I am still married to the same woman, Lucille. Kelly, the 2 year old in the story, is a second-year university student. Kody, the infant, is in Grade 12, and President of Student Council. We have 3 other children, and continue on with every-day life. Sometimes, my mind wanders back close to 2 decades, and I shudder at what might have been, and I am thankful for what I have, and how it turned out.

Top, an aerial view of where the crash occurred. Beautiful moose country!!! Bottom, the Cessna 206 upright and damaged. The belly-pod saved the aircraft and passengers from more severe damage or injury. The aircraft was later helicoptered out. Posted by Hello

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