Only survivor after craft goes down near Golden, B.C., is three-year-old city girl
By DANIEL MACISAAC AND DAVE DORMER, SUN MEDIA
The Edmonton Sun
Two other Edmontonians died in the crash of the Cessna 172 that had left Golden for Edmonton yesterday afternoon: the male pilot, 60, who police say is related to the girl, and a male passenger.
The girl, Kate Williams, miraculously survived the crash on Sunday because she was strapped into a child’s car seat, said Mike Plonka, a member of Golden’s search-and-rescue team.
“What saved her life was being strapped into that car seat,” Plonka said Monday.
“You could see that she was very scared. Her big concern at the time was her little teddy bear. She didn’t want to leave without it.
“She was just pointing at it and calling it ‘Baby.”’
The girl, who suffered head injuries, was reunited with her parents in the southeastern B.C. community of Golden, said hospital officials.
RCMP said the Cessna 172 was on its way to Edmonton on Sunday when it took off from Golden around 1 p.m. into low clouds and snow. Visibility was poor.
An hour later, the Search and Rescue Centre in Victoria picked up the aircraft’s emergency locator transmitter signal from somewhere near the Blaeberry River.
Three search teams, which included military rescue experts, scoured the area by helicopter and on the ground. The chopper had to stay below 200 metres to remain under the clouds as it carefully skimmed above the dense forest.
The crash scene was finally found by a civilian team using a hand-held beacon locator. From the air, all searchers could see was the plane’s tail jutting out from the riverbed.
Searchers, including two military rescue technicians from Comox, B.C., Sgt. Scott Elliston and Master Cpl. Bruno Lapointe, then landed in a civilian helicopter on a logging road. The two men raced through the snow in the gloom of the late afternoon and reached the plane sometime after 5 p.m.
As they checked the wreckage for survivors, they discovered the girl alive but surrounded by debris in the back of the plane. As the two soldiers removed her from the wreckage, she made it clear she didn’t want to leave without her teddy bear.
“I got her out and I handed her to Bruno. She was calling out for her teddy bear. I picked up the teddy bear to give it to her but ... she wasn’t too happy that it was covered in snow so I brushed it off,” Elliston said.
“Everyone is happy that the child survived this.”
The search crew then carried her back to the helicopter for the flight back to hospital in Golden.
RCMP Sgt. Marko Shehovac said the girl probably owes her life to the flying prowess of her grandfather, a veteran pilot.
Williams was CEO and founder of Edmonton-based A.D. Williams Engineering Inc.
“He was very seasoned,” Shehovac said. “If he knew he was going to go down he probably would have done everything in his power to lessen the impact, which may have helped.”
Sutton was chief financial officer of the company.
The two men had been attending a business retreat in Golden.
“Allen has been a visionary and a leader in the consulting engineering industry throughout Alberta and across the country,” said Naseem Bashir in a statement on behalf of the company and families.
“Steve, a trusted adviser to our firm and in our community was an honest man who lived what he believed.
“Both men are treasured husbands, fathers, grandfathers and mentors who will be greatly missed.”
Yesterday's crash follow two other air incidents in B.C.
On Friday, a Piper Malibu flying from Oregon to Alberta crashed about 10 km east of Invermere, B.C., killing all three people aboard, including father and son William and David Wood.
And earlier in the week, another Cessna 172 went missing en route to Qualicum on Vancouver Island.
Pilot Ron Boychuk was flying from Revelstoke on Tuesday but his plane never arrived. His family is pleading for the public to look out for the 61-year-old, who is an experienced outdoorsman.
Chris Boychuk said he and his brothers Jon and Mike have rented a helicopter for the past three days to investigate a number of tips and possible sightings of their father's plane in the steep Fraser Canyon near Lillooet and Spences Bridge.
"As we speak, my brothers are in the bush where there was a flare seen a day or two ago," said Chris, 32, yesterday.
"My dad would never give up on looking for us and we're not going to give up looking for him."
The elder Boychuk was scheduled to fly from Springbank Airport to Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island en route to his home in Nanaimo.
He was returning from Manitoba, where his son runs a charter flight business.
Boychuk stopped for fuel in Revelstoke at 3:05 p.m., after which his last transmission placed him south of Spences Bridge.
Search and Rescue spokesman Second-Lt. Alexandre Cadieux said crews continue to scour a large area with two Buffalo planes and five of their own helicopters after receiving a number of tips over the last few days.
"They are very useful, especially in a mission that comprises of a very large search area," said Cadieux.