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'We heard a cry for help': Witness describes Fairbank Lake plane crash

Bystanders rescued lone survivor and dove into the dark water to try to locate pilot.
fairbank_search_and_rescue opp boat 2016
A witness to Wednesday's Fairbank Lake plane crash says he and his family were having a bonfire when they saw the aircraft's lights disappear as it crashed into the lake. Heather Green-Oliver photo

A witness to Wednesday's Fairbank Lake plane crash says he and his family were having a bonfire when they saw the aircraft.

"We live here seasonally, we were here for holidays and we were out having a bonfire last night and the plane came in low from the east about 600 yards out," the man said, asking that he not be identified.

"The lights disappeared and we heard the crash. And a short time later, perhaps 30 seconds or so, a minute at the most, we heard a cry for help."

So they jumped into a boat and headed to where they saw the plane go down. That's when they saw a young man hanging to a pontoon attached to the plane, the only part of the craft that wasn't under water.

"The plane was inverted, except for the pontoon above water,” the witness said. “He was hanging on to that. We helped get him out. My brother brought him to shore and then we went back. We asked him if there was anyone else and he said yes, his uncle, the pilot, was still there."

The rescuers went back to the downed plane to try and find any more survivors, diving into the water.

"But it was dark and you couldn't really get into the plane," he said. "Then when the search and rescue people and the first caregivers showed up, we got out of the water and that was it."

For the rest of the night, the man said the area was a hub of search and rescue activity, with flares flying and planes and helicopters searching for the missing pilot.

Greater Sudbury Police have said a 60-year-old man who was the pilot of a float plane that crashed on Fairbank Lake last night is missing.

The plane is believed to be resting at the bottom of the lake in around 130 feet of water. The police Marine Unit and Search Team, assisted by the Search and Rescue Team from CFB Trenton, are searching for the pilot. CFB Trenton have dispatched a C-130 Hercules and a helicopter to the scene.

Transport Canada investigators and members of the OPP Underwater Recovery Unit will be assisting with the investigation and search Thursday morning.

“The search went on, I'd say, until about 2:30 or so," the witness said. "The passenger was really shaken up. All he kept saying was, 'my uncle, my uncle, my uncle.'

“He had a head wound that looked superficial. I didn't see anything else. So we wrapped a towel around his head and got him back to shore."

It was a remarkable night, he said, and one he won't soon forget.

"It's very unusual, to see a plane crash land right in front of you."