The pilot of a float plane that crashed on north Vancouver Island on Wednesday afternoon has been identified as Patrick Lehman, born and raised in Port Hardy.
RCMP West Coast Marine Services have now located the submerged plane and have also completed an initial survey of the scene for the RCMP Dive Team, which was to arrive in the area Friday.
No survivors have been found since the Cessna aircraft went down near Strachan Bay, with the initial report of the crash coming about 12:50 p.m. Strachan Bay is about 28 nautical miles northwest of Port Hardy.
Lehman was flying two loggers back to Port Hardy from a logging camp.
The plane belongs to the Air Cab float plane company based in Coal Harbour. President Joel Eilertsen described Lehman, in his late 30s, as “a very qualified pilot, a very good person.”
Eilertsen said he talked to Lehman just 10 minutes before the crash happened. Visibility was good and upper winds were fairly strong at the time, he said, and it seemed that Lehman had no issues.
“My last words to him were: Be safe and careful.”
The crash has prompted Eilertsen to bring up concerns about weather stations in the area being in need of repair.
He said he has had many discussions with Transport Canada about the weather stations, which keep pilots aware of conditions.
One important station has been out for 2 1/2 years and another was not operational for a month, Eilertsen said.
Port Hardy Mayor Pat Corbett-Labatt said she knows Lehman personally and news of the crash involving him and the two passengers has been difficult for the community of about 4,200.
“It is very hard and very distressing and very sad because all three people are north Island people,” she said.
She said Lehman went through school in Port Hardy and his family has been there for many years. “Some of this family’s moved down Island but they’re all quite well known in the area.”
Corbett-Labatt said town council and the entire community are “so sorry and feel so bad for the families.”
The crew of a Cormorant helicopter that responded to the scene Wednesday spotted an oil slick and some debris, and determined there were no signs of life.
The case was then turned over to the RCMP. Both the RCMP and the Transportation Safety Board are carrying out parallel investigations into the crash.