Safety board waits to interview pilot

SATURNA, B.C. — Investigators are waiting to interview the pilot of a float plane that crashed off one of B.C.’s Gulf Islands, killing six passengers.

A West Coast Air float plane takes off behind an RCMP boat on Lyall Harbour at Saturna Island

SATURNA, B.C. — Investigators are waiting to interview the pilot of a float plane that crashed off one of B.C.’s Gulf Islands, killing six passengers.

Federal Transportation Safety Board spokesman Bill Yearwood says the pilot of the single-engine de Havilland Beaver has undergone surgery for his injuries and is now recovering in hospital.

“The RCMP has and they will make those witness statements available to us. We’re hoping to speak to the pilot as soon as he is fit enough,” Yearwood said Monday.

“He’s had surgery and is recovering in hospital. We expect him to recover and that’ll help us a lot with what direction to head in.”

The Seair Seaways flight went down Sunday afternoon shortly after taking off from Lyall Harbour, on Saturna Island.

Two people were rescued by locals who rushed to the water in their boats but six others, including a baby, died in the crash. Their bodies were pulled from the wreckage of the plane by divers early Monday morning.

“As far as I know the aircraft doors were open and all the persons were still inside the aircraft,” said coast guard spokesman Troy Haddock.

“I think there was a bit of twisted wreckage associated with the crash but unknown what the extent of the wreckage or the damage is.”

Both the pilot and the female passenger taken from the water are expected to survive, although one has serious injuries and the other is listed in stable condition.

Saturna resident Ilka Olsen said somebody inside the local pub yelled, “Call 911 and get a boat.” She and her husband were part of the rescue efforts, and she said the female survivor told rescuers there were six other people on board the float plane that plunged into Lyall Harbour, adjacent to the Lighthouse Pub.

“She thought there were six or seven people including a baby on board,” said Olsen. “We didn’t realize it was eight people until we listened to the news when we got home.”

Helicopters were still circling the harbour Monday above where the float plane was last seen before it sank, and the RCMP vessel Higgitt was on the water.

Olsen said at least two of the victims were well-known community residents who had an ownership stake in the Lighthouse Pub.

Residents gathered in the island’s community hall on Monday for information on the crash that claimed six lives, including two Saturna locals.

Yearwood said the aircraft, operated by Richmond-based Seair Seaplanes, is still at the bottom of Lyall Harbour, off Saturna Island, and won’t be raised until tomorrow.

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