Two people were killed and two injured after a float plane crashed north of Tofino on Friday. Another two people on the plane were unharmed, said the Transportation Safety Board.
An emergency beacon activated minutes after an Air Nootka plane carrying a pilot and five hikers took off from Hesquiat Lake, about 85 kilometres northwest of Tofino, just before 11 a.m., the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre said. The plane was heading to Gold River, about 40 kilometres to the northeast.
A Cormorant military helicopter in the area began to search but was forced to return to CFB Comox because of a low cloud ceiling. Two Cormorants, flying 150 feet above the treetops, spotted the wreckage of the Beaver plane in a densely forested area just north of the lake about 3 p.m.
The four survivors were taken to hospitals on Vancouver Island, RCMP said.
One of the injured was in critical condition, said Bill Yearwood of the Transportation Safety Board.
Air Nootka, a commercial float plane operator based in Gold River, declined to comment.
RCMP spokesman Cpl. Darren Lagan said it was a difficult search. “It’s a fairly dense forested area,” he said.
There was “rain falling, there’s some light wind in the area and limited visibility. The waters are described as being rough — not terribly dangerous seas, but certainly higher than you would typically see in the summer months.”
Jean Jackson of the Hesquiaht First Nation said dozens of local people took part in the ground, beach and water search.
The crash site is a 90-minute drive from Hot Spring Cove on an abandoned logging road; high winds over the past few days had downed trees, making driving conditions difficult.
Crews were told by the coast guard that two survivors walked away from the crash, Jackson said.
Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne said Nootka Air often flies hikers into the area and returns to pick them up.
Word of the plane crash has shaken people, she said. “It’s terrible,” she said.
“It’s always everybody’s worst fear. People are out and you hope they’re safe. When something like this happens, you think, ‘Oh my gosh, are these people local?’ ”
On April 4, 2005, an Air Nootka aircraft with eight passengers aboard lost power as it was attempting to land in Nootka Sound. The aircraft landed and flipped. The pilot received minor injuries and the passengers were uninjured.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Vancouver Sun
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