A vacationing Red Deer family’s day of fun in the sun on B.C.’s Lake Okanagan turned into a hair-raising rescue effort when a small plane crashed into the lake right in front of them Thursday afternoon.
Sharon Moore and husband Darrell were on a personal watercraft pulling her 11-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son their two children and a friend on a tube when she saw a plane drifting lower and lower around 2:30 p.m.
While pontoon-equipped planes land in the area all the time, she could see the small, single-engine plane had only wheels.
“It was just hitting the water as we got close.”
“The pilot just landed it like the Hudson River guy in New York,” said Sharon, referring to the “Miracle on the Hudson” water landing of a US Airways jet carrying 155 passengers and crew last January.
“It was an awesome landing. It was just like a float plane would land.”
Three people quickly scrambled out of the plane, two women who looked to be in their 20s and a pilot in his 50s. The pilot was slightly bloodied about the head but none of them were seriously injured.
The pilot seemed to be in a little shock and the women were clearly emotional about their near-death experience. “They were, ‘Thank F—ing God we’re alive. I can’t believe we’re alive,’” said Sharon.
One or both of the women climbed on to the Moores’ tube and the youngsters moved to the Sea-Doo. Other boats were soon on the scene and helped take all three survivors to shore.
One of the women had been on her cellphone to her father saying her good byes when the plane hit the water. She pleaded with rescuers to call her dad to let him know she had survived.
The pilot, who put the plane down less than a kilometre from the airport, said he didn’t have engine power.
The plane eventually sank in about four metres of water. The spot has been marked for investigators.
Sharon said her heart was still pounding hours after the near tragedy. “I have goose bumps. Thankfully, they’re all alive.”
It was the second rescue effort the couple made that afternoon. Only a few minutes before the crash they went to the aid of a couple of young boys who had tipped their sailboat and were sitting on the hull. Darrell managed to right the boat for them and send them back on their way.
Darrell is a local lawyer and the couple have a vacation home in the Vernon area where they spend a lot of time during the summer. Sharon hopes the last week or two of holidays are a little more routine, but she said with a chuckle they plan to keep their eyes open.